India has begun moves to help Africa set up agri-business centers, seed incubators, modern laboratories and joint projects as part of an enhanced partnership in agriculture to achieve food and nutrition security, promote entrepreneurship and create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030.
Proposals for the cooperation will be announced this week at the Asia-Africa Agribusiness Forum meeting in which agriculture ministers of some 15 African countries will take part. Details will emerge and decisions taken at the Africa-India Summit late in the year in Delhi.
Africa is well-endowed with resources but it lacks much of the expertise to unlock their commercial potential. There is a need to restructure the agriculture industry in order to make the sector more profitable form. Many African countries are net food importers and small holder farmers comprise much of the continent’s agriculture sector.
According to William Dar, director general of the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Small holder farmers must be given access to scientific innovation designed for the poor, to help them connect to markets, but in a way that builds their own resilience rather than creating dependency
Also, the agro-based industry needs a major transformation to generate more job opportunities, revenues and food for the growing population.
ICRISAT will use its Agribusiness and Innovation Platform initiative to help set up agribusiness incubators for farmers across Africa, along the lines of its networks of incubators in India.
In a recent World Bank report titled “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness”, it was stated that Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030, a three-fold increase from the current size of the market which is estimated to be worth $313 billion.
Agribusiness entails the full value chain from farming through secondary processing, distribution and retailing to the end user-consumer.
Hennie van der Merwe of South Africa-based Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) says Africa is currently experiencing a revival in terms of its focus on agribusiness, not only to increase food self-sufficiency but also to create jobs and economic activity, specifically in rural areas.
However, the ability and experience to develop and manage commercial farming and agribusiness ventures are largely lacking in the continent and that major technology transfer and capacity building would be necessary, van der Merwe avers.
George Tonderai Marechera of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a non-profit organisation that facilitates public-private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers, says that it is hard to develop cassava production in Zambia due to challenges of machinery for planting, harvesting and processing.
India has proposed to establish five India-Africa food processing business incubation centres in Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and Uganda.
Also at a meeting at the Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries last October, participants said African countries could learn from the way India has boosted the domestic production of seeds.
The National Seed Association of India is partnering Syngenta Foundation India in the “India Africa Seeds Bridge” project. It is aimed at developing the seed system in Africa through providing African farmers better seeds and making market access for Indian seed companies.
Africa and India are running seed trials in Senegal for commercial cultivation. Once approved, the trial data will be used for automatic approval for release of millet and sorghum varieties in 15 ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo verde, Cote D’ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togolese.