IFAD: Investments in Agriculture Can Unlock Africa’s Prosperity

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Obinna Chima
While Africa is expected to experience its slowest growth rate this millennium, the President of the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo Nwanze, has sent a strong message of optimism to government and business leaders gathering for the Grow Africa Investment Forum and the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) in Kigali this week.

“Investments in agriculture can generate great riches for the continent and lift millions out of poverty and hunger,” Nwanze said in a report ahead of the forum. “There are high returns to those countries that take agriculture seriously.”

Since 2009 Africa has been seen as the next great investment frontier yet, according to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth on the continent is now predicted to be slower than the rest of the world for the first time in sixteen years. With many countries in southern and eastern Africa suffering from the worst drought in decades, and with fiscal deficits widening and conflicts increasing, some experts are questioning whether Africa is still on the rise.

Despite these dire predictions, Nwanze said Africa is still a continent of unprecedented opportunity, and supporting small-scale farmers and investing in rural areas are some of the best ways for countries to meet their broader development objectives, including poverty reduction. With the right investments, he said, Africa could double its agricultural productivity in the next five years.

“Half of the world’s uncultivated land which is suited for growing food crops is in Africa,” Nwanze added
“We need to work together to harness the continent’s potential and this means investing in small-scale farmers who are the backbone of African agriculture.”

Africa has 25 per cent of the world’s arable land, yet it generates only 10 per cent of global agricultural output. With a population growth of 2.7 per cent annually, food demand on the continent is expected to double every 30 years. Investments that encourage increased agricultural production would cut Africa’s annual US$35 billion food import bill, keeping this money on the continent to be used for broader economic development.

Nwanze said investments alone would not transform the continent, adding that governments need to get their own houses in order and ensure that there is a strong commitment to policies and incentives that encourage higher food production by smallholder farmers.

“At IFAD we know that small-scale farmers do not want hand-outs. They want economic opportunities,” said Nwanze.
“I am looking forward to discussing how we can create those opportunities and make agriculture a profitable sector and a powerful catalyst for development.”

The Grow Africa and WEF events will bring together global and regional heads of government, business and civil society. Nwanze will participate in a high-level panel discussion at Grow Africa on “Accelerating Agricultural Transformation.” While at WEF, he will moderate “Rethinking Agriculture,” a session on innovative ways to create sustainable food systems.

 Report Highlights Rising Usage of Shopping Apps

Experienced Nigerian consumers are ahead of the curve when it comes to online shopping compared to consumers in Kenya and South Africa, according to the Broll Shopper Segmentation Report 2016.

The Broll Shopper Segmentation Report 2016 is a comparison of how consumers shop in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

“Nigerians purchase online more often with 64 per cent saying online shopping is advantageous with another 83 per cent regularly using the shopping centre app for specials and/or product searches,” the Divisional Director for Research, Broll Property Group, Elaine Wilson said.

Online shopping is mostly dominated by a growing young internet savvy generation, who are price conscious and can easily do their research online to compare prices and deals, she explains.

Although 58 per cent of those surveyed prefer traditional shopping, 78 per cent believed they will shop more online in future. Generally, Nigerian consumers are experienced shoppers who are organised and shop from a list as well as compare prices.

Furthermore, Abuja shoppers were described as window shoppers who look for bargains and always buy the same brands while those in Lagos are experienced shoppers who plan their shopping trips and they also regard themselves as smart shoppers, reveals the report.

“Nigerian consumers are very sophisticated and are used to shopping internationally particularly in the UK, US, South Africa and Dubai and they regularly compare product ranges and prices for the best deals both locally and internationally,” Broll Nigeria CEO, Bolaji Edu said.

Compared to Kenya and South Africa, Nigeria as a whole has a very limited number of leisure opportunities that the whole family can enjoy. Visiting a secure shopping centre where consumers can shop, eat, socialise and watch a movie is a good option especially during the rainy season, explains Edu.

Of those surveyed, 92 per cent said trading hours are inadequate and would ideally like to see shopping centres trade from 7am to 10pm. Edu said many consumers work long hours and by the time they finish work and sit through traffic trying to get to the shops, many will be closed for trade for the day, therefore with current opening hours (9am to 9pm), it is often difficult for many shoppers.

“It is possible that the inadequate shopping centre trading hours have helped the growth in e-commerce and the need for shoppers to plan their shopping trips and what they would spend on each of these trips.”

Customs Intercepts Bags of Cannabis

The anti-smuggling campaign of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) paid off at the weekend as no fewer than 26 bags of cannabis were intercepted by officers and men of the service.

Cannabis is high on the Import Prohibition List (IPL) and the Export Prohibition List (EPL) prepared by the Federal Ministry of Finance based on the Federal Government fiscal policies and enforced by NCS.

Though the exact present market value of the prohibited items could not be immediately ascertained, THISDAY gathered that it runs into millions of naira in the open market.

Packed neatly in jumbo bags and left unattended to at Tanfi Island near the Republic of Benin, the cannabis were intercepted by men and officers from the Badagry station of NCS while patrolling the creeks at the Badagry-Republic of Benin axis.

Customs Area Controller (CAC), Western Marine Command (WMC), Comptroller Yusuf Umar who confirmed this in a chat with THISDAY said the prohibited items was being kept in readiness for smuggling into Nigeria from the Republic of Benin.

Giving an insight into how the operation was carried out by men and officers of his command, Umar said: “After waiting for several hours in ambush for the owners of the cannabis to surface, the team sought re-enforcement from the Nigerian Navy, who responded immediately and assisted in conveying the bags of cannabis to our base at Ibafon, Apapa, Lagos in one of our patrol boats. No suspect was apprehended. The contraband is valued at N100 million and the weight is 3750 kilograms”.

“The management of the service led by our amiable Comptroller General, Colonel Hammed Ali (retired) has been very supportive and focused on eradicating smuggling activities on the waterways.  This support has been the motivation for officers and men of the Western Marine Command”.

The Customs Chief also revealed that the command has made several seizures for the year 2016 which isvalued at N260 million with duty paid value (DPV) of N265 million.

This is against a total number of 13 seizures valued at N6.5 million and DPVof N8 million.

This showed that the seizures for this year 2016 alone is over  20l0 percent increase compared to those made in the same period of 2013 and 2014 respectively.

He commended the Comptroller General of Customs and his management team for giving WMC a letter of commendation for its efforts in combating smuggling in its areas of jurisdiction.

He commended the roles by several individuals and organization to ensure that the prohibited items were intercepted by men and officers of his command.

The CAC specifically hailed the management of the Nigerian Navy for its continuous collaboration with the NCS, especially the WMC.
According to him, NCS is looking forward to a more fruitful relationship with other stakeholders as this synergy has yielded tremendous results.