Missing in Action

Missing in Action

AU Summit Leaves Agriculture Behind

When African leaders met to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa last year, their hope was that years of conflicts and poverty would soon be over. A year later, a galaxy of African heads of state joined last month during the 22nd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa to push forward a great leap towards the pan-African quest for economic growth and unity through “Agenda 2063”, a hopeful blueprint for a socio-economic and political transformation of the continent.For this noble purpose, which depends on Africa’s agricultural transformation and food security, African leaders met to talk in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and long-time headquarters of the AU and its predecessor. For most African leaders, transforming the agriculture sector, which supports close to 65Pct of the continent’s population, is the key to creating a middle-income continent free of poverty and conflict. During the summit, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture and Development Programme (CAADP), African leaders were forced to grapple with crises in South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) instead of talking about blocks that impact farming and expanding economic opportunities for farmers.
Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan has been in turmoil since mid-December after forces loyal to President Salva Kiir started to fight against rebel groups headed by sacked Vice-President Riek Machar(PhD), who is also an experienced guerrilla fighter. The political crisis in the Central African Republic is also on the verge of spiralling out of control. The country of 4.6m people has been in turmoil ever since a rebel group known as Séléka ousted President François Bozizé in March 2013. Last month, however, South Sudan’s warring parties signed a ceasefire agreement in Addis Ababa, after the leaders of two of South Sudan’s neighbours, Kenya and Ethiopia, held constructive talks there in a bid to halt fighting.
Nevertheless, African leaders wrapped up their 22nd summit vowing to continue the push for a more peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa. They stress that the AU should move forward by creating a force that could be quickly engaged in conflict resolution – something critics have said is long overdue.
In the summit overwhelmed by unexpected conflict agendas, the long speech by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma(PhD), the chair of the 54-member bloc, about her vision of what the continent could look like in the next 50 years, brought life to the meeting which was supposed to conviene under the motto “ Agriculture and food security.” “The advancing global trend towards regional blocks reminded us that integration and unity is the only way for Africa to leverage its competitive advantage by transforming its agricultural sector,” she said.
For this to happen, many believe that all African countries needs to ensure that adequate resources are made available for the agricultural sector based on the 2003 Maputo Declaration, which states that all AU member countries need to increase investment in the agriculture sector to at least 10Pct of the national budget by 2008.
Ten years down the line, only 13 African countries have surpassed the target in any year and only 7 countries including Ethiopia have surpassed it in many years. For African counties, sustaining high levels of investment is essential to the attainment of food security. Recent estimates from the World Bank indicate that nine African countries including Ethiopia achieved six percent agriculture sector growth.
Food supply in Africa has been inadequate and erratic. Cereal yields have stagnated for the past 45 years and currently average less than one ton per hectare. With low agricultural productivity and rapid population growth, Africa is the only region of the world where per capita food production has fallen over the past 45 years. The value of agricultural output per worker has likewise stagnated. In 2012, the average African farm worker produced USD520 in farm output, compared to USD670 in Asia and USD4,100 in Latin America. Estimates from the International Food Policy Research Institute suggest that an increase of one dollar in farm incomes results in increased rural incomes of USD1.5 to USD2.5.
Many agree that the AU declaration to commit member countries to allocation of 10 Pct of the budget to its implementation was a landmark decision. Experts stress that even though there is limited progress, the estimated impact of increased investment on growth and incomes is enough justification for member countries to recommit their countries to comply with the AU decision.
However, ten years after the Maputo pledges, few countries have been able to reach and exceed the symbolic minimal threshold of 10Pct of the national budget dedicated to agriculture, and to make it last. Evaluating the progress in this regard will be the task for African leaders in the next summit. But at the recently concluded summit in Addis Ababa, they have missed to do that. EBR

2nd Year • February 2014 • No 12

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