Four Farming First spokespeople feature in a Wall Street Journal article published today that looks at private sector investment in African agriculture.
The article, ‘Private Sector Interest Grows in African Farming’ looks at how fears about another global food crisis are leading private companies to tap into the huge potential of the farm sector in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to hold up to 60% of the world’s uncultivated land suitable for farming.
Reflecting on this current wave of investment, Lucy Muchoki, head of PanAAC, said, “People are realizing the potential of agriculture.”
Sindiso Ngwenya, chairperson of COMESA and chairman of FANRPAN, spoke about the failure of previous African agricultural projects initiated by foreign investors, that did not properly address the barriers to the sector’s development, saying,“You end up with an enclave economy, prosperous on cheap labor in the countryside without integrating the locals, and this can lead to future conflicts.”
Hugh Scott, director of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, said that private sector investors have the power to empower local farmers to boost output and ensure sustainable markets. Speaking about AECF’s mission, he said, “We’re looking to create projects others will copy, that will change the way market systems work. By doing this with for-profit companies, hopefully they will be there in 10 years,” he said.
Mima Nedelcovych, board director of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, said if governments want to encourage a sea-change in investment, they need to foster a productive environment themselves.“The agro-industrial side can always be financed because it can handle shorter-term loans. But developing infrastructure and putting in irrigation requires longer term soft money.”