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Agriculture key to African development says AU commissioner

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As The African Union pushes for its new flagship 2063 agenda — initiatives for prosperity and peace on the continent –Investment in Agriculture will play a key part for development says the AUs Commissioner for Agriculture in comments to Euronews.

Becoming autonomous will also be key for the continent Josefa Sacko says.

“We have an import bill per year of $45 billion when Africa has 60% arable land to produce for Africa and the world. With this comparative advantage that we have to try to exploit, I think Covid-19 was a good lesson. Our dependence on imports has to end,” Sacko said.

Natural disasters, like Cyclone Idai, and the Covid-19 pandemic have shown the need for food reserves to cope with the unforeseen.

“We already have an initiative right now, we are working with the African Development Bank and the African, Afreximbank, import-export bank, to see if this initiative of ours to create food reserve on the continent, a lesson from covid, develop agro-parks for food reserve,“ said the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Sustainable Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment.

“Because we saw with covid many countries, mainly in West Africa, these countries live off rice imports, the market is Asian, with covid, with the measures that the governments took of containment, everything was blocked, it was not possible to import food in these regions. So what are we going to do? We can’t continue to stand with our arms folded.”

In Africa, subsistence agriculture is carried out by 70% of the population, and women represent 60% of the workforce. Only one-fifth of female rural workers own their own land.

The difficulty in obtaining the right to land is one of the most pointed out factors that hinder the access of small farmers to financing.

“Access to innovation, science and innovation, digitalization, this is very important and access to finance. If she has the land title she has a guarantee that she can go to the bank and negotiate financing,” Sacko said.

In partnership with the European Union, the African Union will soon implement the recommendations of the joint report on Rural Africa where four areas of action stand out, among them the implementation of the strategy for territorial development and job creation, sustainable management of land, natural resources and climate action.

“We selected great Think Tanks, African as well as European, to work together. For six months, that task force worked in Belgium, we had great support from the European Union, and produced the report of the Task Force on Rural Africa,” Sacko said.

Neusa e Silva, Euronews correspondent said: “In addition to the 2063 agenda the African Union is guided by the Malabo Declaration, where the heads of state made a commitment to invest 10% of their annual budget in agriculture. In 2020 only 4 countries were positioned to meet this target by 2025.”