If we look into Africas recent history, we see that this part of the world fits perfectly, at this time, into the growth limits stated by Reverend Thomas Malthus more than 200 years ago. With a population doubling every 25 years and an ecological decline hard to slow down, Africa is about to reach its limits of growth. But this is not a reason to despair.
At the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa Science Week that will take place in Accra, Ghanabetween July 15-20th, ensuring food security will be the hottest topic on agenda. With a diverse audience made up of policy makers, researchers, private sector and civil society representative, the Science Week will try to establish how agriculture can transform Africas future.
A new economic vision for Africas future has to be set in order to regulate the agricultural sector and to allow agricultural research to give aid at all levels of society. Agricultural innovation can help define new solutions in light of emerging challenges such as climate change in a time when the World Bank states that a 20C growth in global temperature might lead to a 4-5% permanent decrease in the annual income per capita in Africa. While leaders try to solve problems, their prevention requires an appreciation of emerging challenges and how they might influence current and future economic strategies. Such a shift in view, towards a more foresight oriented policy making process in which innovation is an integral part of, should focus on Africa as a learning society (as stated by Calestous Juma).
Africa should no longer see itself as a group of nations entrenched in its traditional agricultural practices, but as a homogenous region willing to learn and ready to push the limits of knowledge and growth. Following the examples of Morocco that 5 years ago moved towards replacing its staple crops with high value crops (moving from cereal crops to citrus fruits and tomatoes) in order to accelerate GDP growth and to raise farmers incomes of Ethiopia who decided in the 1990s to invest in sesame and cut flowers, African countries can succeed if they work together. Governments, together with the agricultural research sector, can provide the conceptual policy frameworks that will constitute the building blocks for Africas transformation.
By renewing its infrastructure, developing the research and development sector, building on the human capabilities and working in and with the global economy, African leaders can make a shift from reaching limits to breaking them.
Until the FARA Africa Agriculture Science Week kick starts on July 15th, I leave you with one thing on your mind: what do you think that Africa should do in order to ensure its food security? Increase its agricultural productivity? Invest in youth as future farmers? Better support the private sector? What would be your solution?