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World Bank Urges African Agriculture Rethink
The World Bank is urging African governments to retool their agriculture policies, particularly to include a far greater focus on agribusiness as a critical driver of future development.
The bank is now projecting that African agriculture could triple in economic size in coming years, topping a trillion dollars by 2030, powered by massively increasing domestic and international demand. With Africa by some counts the world’s fastest-growing economy, middle-class demand for food is set to quadruple by 2030, to more than 400 billion dollars.
“After years of neglect, agriculture is once again seizing the attention of African governments, business leaders, communities, and development donors, as a powerful driver of the continent’s relentless growth,” Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s vice-president for Africa, wrote in the forward to the new report, released Monday by the bank’s Washington headquarters.
“[W]e cannot overstate the importance of agriculture … Africa now stands at a crossroads, from which it can take concrete steps to take on a much bigger role in both the regional and global markets or continue to lose competitiveness – missing a major opportunity for structural transformation.”
While African farmers currently contribute the single largest component to the continent’s annual economic growth, their sector has for decades been seen as failing to reach its full potential.
“On almost any metric – yields, level of exports, contribution to gross domestic product – African agriculture does underperform,” Nicholas Minot, a senior research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank, told IPS.