The President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is calling on African heads of state and governments to invest in agriculture ahead of the three-day World Economic Forum on Africa, scheduled to begin in Tanzania today.
Kanayo Nwanze said African governments are beginning to recognize that agriculture is the engine for economic growth.
“Basically in the last 30 years, agriculture in Africa has received what I will describe as a disinvestment, similar to the way the international community disinvested in Africa. Because of the food crisis in 2007, 2008 there is now a re-focusing on agriculture when some governments were investing, in some cases, less than four percent of their budgets into agriculture,” he said.
Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete is scheduled to host the World Economic Forum on Africa which will explore opportunities that can unlock the continent’s growth potential.
President Kikwete was quoted as saying “Africa has been growing despite the economic instability that is facing the world today. We will have the opportunity to examine the strategy of Africa for today to ensure that there is a better tomorrow.”
Eleven heads of state and more than 1000 participants from over 85 countries are expected to attend the three-day conference dubbed “Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy”.
IFAD President Nwanze said the three-day meeting in Dar-es-Salaam is expected to provide participants with a platform on how they are facing up to the challenges brought about by the recent economic crisis, and how they are using the crisis as an opportunity to redesign a sustainable roadmap for Africa’s future.
He said there is need for African leaders to invest in agriculture.
“Governments as well as the development community today recognize that agriculture is the engine for economic growth and that we must invest in agriculture on a sustainable basis,” he said.
The forum will have an interactive brainstorming session that will also examine the barriers to social and economic progress in the coming year.
Nwanze said previous policies embarked upon by some African countries shifted their focus from agriculture.
“They disinvested and they went into infrastructural development and in some cases, they were ill-advised by institutions like the World Bank. We’ve had Structural Adjustment Programs and 25 years later the consequences are what we experienced.
Having said that they have competing demands on the budgetary requirements,” Nwanze said.
He also said IFAD is working closely with the African Union on land policies across the continent as well as extending rural financing facilities to poor farmers.
The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.