When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, concern immediately arose that sub-Saharan Africa faced a potential worsening in food insecurity.
Kenya still prohibits the importation and growing of genetically modified maize. This is a significant hindrance for South Africa as roughly 80% of maize grown in the country is genetically modified.
I recently joined Ms Vonnie Estes, Vice President of Technology, at The Produce Marketing Association to discuss the role of technology in boosting agriculture productivity in Africa and how growing more agricultural produce can help address unemployment on the Continent.
Over the past two decades, South Africa’s agricultural output growth and rise in trade surpluses have been inspiring, and these successes give me much enthusiasm and optimism. In 2020 alone, amidst a pandemic, South Africa exported US$10,2 billion worth of agricultural products, the second largest on record. One market that has consistently been important to South Africa is the African continent, which on average, accounts for 40% of South Africa’s agricultural exports.
The 2020/2021 production season has so far been favourable, not just for SA but for most of Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe
The new African Free Continental Trade Area phases out 90% of tariffs on all goods traded between African Union member states over a 5-to-10-year period. This seeks to boost intra-African trade and investment in regional value chains. The current 41% share of SA agricultural exports that goes to Africa is concentrated in SADC. The opening of other markets presents an opportunity for further expansion in goods such as oranges, apples and wine.
African governments should have a fresh relook at agriculture, which involves embracing technology (information technology, mechanical and biotechnology) and also private-sector partnerships. There needs to be also confidence in the citizenry to manage their land parcels. This will involve the granting of tradable long-term leases in various African countries.