Accelerating Africa’s agriculture plan

From Africa Renewal: 
page 19

African governments generally agree that “agriculture must lead economic development,” Ghanaian President John Kufuor told African and international officials and farm experts meeting in Accra. “But the sad truth is that Africa does not seem to have the know-how to let this happen, and the agricultural sectors are inadequately supported.”

The conference, held 5–6 May, was called to push forward implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). First released in 2003 as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the continental development plan, the CAADP aims to address Africa’s agricultural needs, such as greater funding and for access to appropriate farming technologies and knowledge.

Farmers NEPAD's agricultural plan aims to boost farm productivity to help spur development and reduce hunger.
Photograph: Getty Images / Charles Milligan

The more than 200 delegates — from African governments, key donor agencies, farmers’ organizations and agribusinesses — agreed that Africa’s five regions should identify and begin implementing early actions over the next 12 months, to give momentum to the CAADP. Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu, executive head of the NEPAD Secretariat, based in South Africa, emphasized that these regional groups should integrate into their decision-making all key agricultural stakeholders.

Initial proposals for such actions were already raised during five regional CAADP meetings held during the early months of 2005. For example, the mid-February meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), in Maputo, Mozambique, highlighted programmes to expand small-scale irrigation and water harvesting, reform land-tenure laws and help build the capacity of farmers’ organizations. Ms. Emily Sikazwe, executive director of a Zambian civil society organization, Women for Change, stressed measures to redress rural gender inequalities by improving women’s access to land, credit and education.

One of the concrete proposals endorsed in Maputo was taken up by the Accra conference and recommended for all five regions: establishment of a budget-tracking system to determine how much African governments are actually spending on agricultural activities. African heads of state agreed in 2003 that about 10 per cent of their budgets should go to agriculture, but since that spending is currently scattered among different parts of national budgets, it is often difficult to monitor the extent to which countries are progressing towards the target.

The Accra meeting also underscored the need for Africa’s external partners to allocate more of their assistance to the CAADP’s four priorities: expanding areas under sustainable land and water management, improving agricultural infrastructure and market access, increasing food supply and reducing hunger, and strengthening dissemination of agricultural research and technologies.

The World Bank has agreed to provide an initial $60 mn for multi-country agricultural productivity programmes in the countries of SADC and the Economic Community of West African States. The African Development Bank will provide $150 mn for SADC irrigation programmes. At the Maputo meeting, a representative of the US Agency for International Development reported that US aid to agriculture has increased by a third between 2001 and 2005.

Boosting Africa’s agricultural productivity is the “combined responsibility” of both Africans and their development partners, Prof. Richard Mkandawire, NEPAD’s agriculture adviser, stressed at the Accra meeting. Raising productivity will contribute not only towards reaching the goal of an average agricultural growth rate of 6 per cent a year, but also help ensure that 200 million Africans “do not further suffer food insecurity.”


Towards the Millennium goals

The African Union (AU) and the NEPAD Secretariat are seeking to help the continent prepare for a high-level summit of the UN General Assembly in September to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). African countries are planning to hold their own MDG review meeting, just before the AU’s 4–5 July heads of state summit in Tripoli, Libya, which is expected to develop an African Common Position for presentation to the UN meeting.

Putting forward such a position, says the NEPAD Secretariat, will “send a strong message to Africa and the international community that Africa and its leaders not only take the MDGs seriously, but are prepared to take the lead in helping African countries meet the goals.” NEPAD, from its inception, incorporated the MDG targets as its own, so that the African plan focuses not only on core economic and political development goals, but also on enhancing the well-being and capacities of Africans.

The NEPAD Secretariat is overseeing the preparation of five regional MDG reports for North, West, Central, East and Southern Africa, as well as for some individual countries that are at the highest risk of not meeting the MDGs. These will feed into the preparation of the continent-wide report. Special case studies will also examine the challenges that HIV/AIDS and peace and security pose in meeting the MDGs in Africa.

“The significance of the year and the unprecedented opportunities Africa has to influence the development agenda,” says the NEPAD Secretariat, “make it imperative that Africa speaks with one voice for a common response to meeting the MDGs across the continent.”


Ghana sets pace on peer review

Ghana, one of the first four countries to submit themselves to outside scrutiny under NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), became the very first to complete its national self-assessment report, in March. The three other countries under review are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Under the APRM, participating countries agree to have their practices on democracy, human rights, the fight against corruption and other areas of political and economic governance reviewed through a consultative process that involves outside African experts and representatives of the national government, civil society, private sector and others.

The Ghanaian government not only moved quickly to finish its own self-assessment report — one of the first steps in a national review — but also decided to grant autonomy to the National APRM Governing Council, which is chaired by Prof. Samuel Kwesi Adjepong and oversees preparation of the consultations. Four independent Ghanaian institutions have been designated to guide the process: the Centre for Democracy and Development, the Private Enterprise Foundation, the Centre for Economic Policy Analysis and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research.

A delegation of the APRM Secretariat visited Ghana in April. It included nationals from 12 African countries and was led by Mr. Chris Stals, former head of the South African Reserve Bank and a member of the APRM’s panel of eminent persons. While in Ghana, the delegation met with trade union leaders, academics, members of Parliament, the Committee on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Serious Frauds Office and many others. It also visited a number of Ghana’s regional capitals to meet with local stakeholders.