Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bringing Agriculture in Africa Back!

courtesy of:
The African Executive

This article grabbed my attention because it reminded me a lot about an opinion piece that I had written for Kenya Empowerment News. The article that I read in the African Executive highlights the phenomena of agriculture suddenly becoming unpopular amongst Africa's younger generation of business persons. Whereas, my article talked about how the same thing is happening in Kenya.

On one hand, it is easy for me to understand why this trend is on the rise in Africa, especially with all of the talk of high tech industries revolutionizing the way that business is done in Africa. However, when one considers the abundance of agricultural resources on many parts of the continent and the availability of unemployed labor. Add the those to variables the fact that south of the Sahara the vast majority of household income still comes from agriculture it would seem like more investment into agriculture, rather than less, should be the answer...

Below is an excerpt from the African Executive:

"...Robert Sabiiti, Agricultural Economist and Uganda’s representative in the UN agencies responsible for food and agriculture shares insights on the steps being taken by Uganda to popularise agriculture with Josephat Juma of The African Executive. Robert, who is currently in the Department of Agricultural Planning, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries offers perceptions about herbicide use.

Ghana’s President recently decried the unpopularity of agriculture among Ghanaian youth. What disincentives chase African University youths from Agriculture?

It is always important to remember that Africa is not homogeneous. It is characterised by different cultures and other socio-economic challenges. The disincentives range from a poor perception of agriculture to limited investment in the sector.

The low position that agriculture occupies in society even among the farming communities makes it unattractive to the young generation. The historic context of agriculture in Africa, in general, and Uganda, in particular, reveals that farming is a responsibility of the poor and uneducated. The majority view agriculture as an ignoble profession in which one should not be involved if there was an alternative. Most of the small scale farmers confess that they are unemployed..."
Next is an excerpt from my article:

"...if you decided to study these headlines, over time, then you may come to notice that writers seem to put a heavy emphasis on the nation’s more glamorous or let’s say exciting business industries or activities. This would tend to make one feel like Kenya’s business environment must be really, really diverse, after all out of all of these headlines only a few mentions agriculture. Even in our random conversations, I even noticed recently myself that it’s rare that I tell someone, “Gee, I think I want to start a farm in Kenya”. But don’t you think that in a way we are all doing this industry a disservice by forgetting about it so often..."
Again, the African Executive did a great service to the economies of Africa by focusing on this topic. It was really good how they touched upon several African countries througout their analysis. In fact, I believe that not enough could be said about the need for Africa's investors and business persons to invest more heavily in agriculture. Somehow, it seems that there is a need for this fact to be emphasized not just on the African continent, but even more so ( as Jurgen Nagler points out) in Europe and in the America's. With it perhaps more investment into Africa's agriculture and less trade barriers against agriculture from abroad would be a by-product. What do you think?

For some strange reason, prior to this visit to the African Executive, my idea of the site was that it was a human resources recruitment website. Wow, that could not have been further from the truth, as they are actually quite a pivotal African business media resource. So now that my understanding of what they do is a little bit clearer, thanks to Ken, I hope to become a much more regular visitor to their site. To the folks at the African Executive-great job!



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