Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Invest in agriculture to overcome food shortages in Africa – Kofi Annan

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Africa can overcome its food shortages if agriculture is taken seriously and investments made into the sector, Mr. Kofi Annan has said.

The immediate past General-Secretary of the United Nations, was speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Standard Bank and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), in Accra Wednesday March 18, 2009.

He said, “there is no doubt that if Africa were to overcome its food shortages, that we would need to take agriculture very seriously and invest substantially in agricultural development.”

The ceremony which took place at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, saw the signing of a partnership agreement between AGRA and Standard Bank for a US$100 million low interest loan to help assist African farmers.

Mr. Annan noted that, the agreement to help assist Africa’s small scale farmers out of poverty, signals a new way of doing business.

He indicated that until now African smallholder farmers have been struggling on their own. He said, “it is only the African farmer who swam or drowned alone without any financial assistance, no insurance and no government assistance.”

Mr. Annan also stated the fact that it is the women who mostly work to feed the population in Africa.
He was hopeful that an insurance programme would be introduced to help African farmers.

Mr. Annan said “the signing of this agreement today shows that we recognize that the global food and financial crisis is continuing to have impact on Africa’s most vulnerable - inflation, food shortages, trade imbalances, and the tightening of global credit which pose huge social, economic and political risk for this continent.”

He was optimistic that Africa can and should become self-sufficient in food production. Admitting the fact that governments cannot do it alone, he said governments and partners in the public and private sector should come together to bring the transformation that is required to develop agriculture.

Mr. Annan believes that the action initiated by Africans will bring transformation to many lives and put food on the tables of millions in Africa.

The Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) also declared its intention to participate in the partnership. Its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Benjamin Esson Benjamin made a contribution of US$2 million to the programme.

The Chief Executive of Standard Bank, Jacko Maree said, the goal of the bank was to perform a transformational role in the continent’s agriculture in partnership with other organizations.

In addition to the US$100 million made available for lending over three years by Standard Bank, AGRA and other partners are providing US$10 million loan guarantee fund.

The fund would operate initially in Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. Each country would receive US$25 million.

Lending to Africa’s smallholder farmers are considered high risk by financial institutions and this has limited credit to these farmers which has consequently affected growth of the agriculture sector on the continent.

This fund is therefore, a major boost to the development of agriculture on the continent.

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