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Agriculture is quintessential for Africa and must be leveraged for transformation, says ECA’s Songwe

“Agriculture is the quintessential sector for the transformation of the African continent and we must treat it as such,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) – Ms. Vera Songwe has told a wide-range of African leaders and delegates attending the 51st Session of ECA (and Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development).

Ms. Songwe was speaking at the launch of a new report titled Agriculture, Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation, by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) – founded by former ECA Executive Secretary – Dr. K.Y. Amoako.

The Report is a comprehensive assessment of the state of Africa’s agriculture and gives clear pointers as to how to rapidly transform the sector to leverage the continent’s overall economic transformation and development. It is predicated on the reality that Africa has a comparative advantage in respect of unused arable land, water resources, labor and long growing seasons and that the continent possesses the lion’s share of the world’s unutilized arable land.

Disappointingly, Africa is yet to capitalize on these God-given advantages as its agriculture “is still the least technology-intensive, it uses the lowest amounts of fertilizers and is done almost in a sentimental way,” remarked Ms. Songwe.

To transform Africa’s agriculture, therefore, the report argues that the sector must be remodeled by raising productivity on farms, reducing harvesting and post-harvest loses, strengthening value chains and linking agriculture more effectively to the rest of the economy through downstream agro-processing, upstream manufacturing of inputs and logistics.

The study points out that Africa’s agriculture must be modernized to the extent that it creates massive jobs across value chains, thereby raising levels of income, reducing poverty and improving countries’ trade balances.

It further delves into how gender equity must be mainstreamed into a transformed agricultural sector and makes a case for paying attention to the environment and the response to climate change.

The President and Founder of ACET, which produced the report, former ECA Executive Secretary – Dr. K.Y. Amoako was thankful to the current Executive Secretary Ms. Songwe for the attention she is paying to this new report and warmly congratulated her on her appointment to the job, which he described as ‘tough.’ He was full of praise for Ms. Songwe, whom he said was very deserving to have become the first woman-leader of ECA with a vision to move the Commission to greater heights.

Ghana’s Minister of Finance – Dr. Ken Ofori-Atta also attended the book launch and underscored the importance of the report’s underlying theme in terms of its implications for agricultural transformation and diversification in his country and across Africa.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).