Extensive travel across the various economies in Africa has afforded me the opportunity to witness the viable investment opportunities that abound. Perhaps, the sector that resonates the most with me is Agriculture. With nearly US$50 billion worth of agricultural imports into Africa, a shift to agriculture and agri-business should be embraced as a credible path to Africa’s growth and self-sustainability.
By 2050, Africa is projected to have one billion people below the age of 50, according to World Bank reports. That begs the question – what does the future hold for these men and women in a continent where the standards of healthcare, infrastructure and education are lower than the global benchmarks?
The good news is Africa can create a trillion dollar market out of agri-business, even 10 years before 2050 considering the amount of arable land in the region. Africa holds nearly 50 per cent of the world’s uncultivated land totaling nearly 450 million hectares. A shift to agriculture and agribusiness can end Africa’s poverty.
This can only happen if government and business leaders have a rethink, form genuine partnerships in terms of policies and increase support to agriculture and agribusinesses with total commitment to SMEs by providing more access to capital, electricity, and better technology to grow very high-value nutritious foods for the anticipated 1 billion people.
Coming from Nigeria, where a teeming population presents massive opportunities in agribusiness, I believed no other country in Africa could equal the potential opportunities in agriculture. My belief was based on various facts, the first being that extensive research showed that Nigeria imports nearly 90% of her consumed goods, the second is the fact that the agricultural sector requires over 1,000,000 tractors to operate at an optimal level but, however, has only about 3,000 in operations. The third factor being that the preservation, processing and packaging sub-sector seems to be in disarray, this problem, I would later find, extends to our neighbouring Ghana, after an extensive meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ghana.
I held this belief until I visited Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo where I was made privy to the tremendous investment opportunities in agriculture. For starters, the DRC is said to have an estimated whooping 80% arable land suitable for agriculture. With abundant rainfall and inland waters that contain a surplus amount of fish, the DRC is an agricultural investor’s haven.
In 2015, when I visited Freetown, Sierra Leone to record the economic documentary, ‘I Have Seen Sierra Leone’, I realized that the opportunities in agribusiness in Sierra Leone surpassed my initial thoughts and that investments in fishery and sea food alone can transform that country.
Needless to say, I was truly overwhelmed by the huge, untapped opportunities that lie within Africa. I finally came to the conclusion that Africa does not need foreign aid to attain self-sufficiency, rather, strategic investments in agribusiness.
There is great potential for export of agricultural produce from this continent at a time like this when demand of agricultural produce is high world over and would remain high due to urbanization, land degradation, high cost of labour, slowdown in research spending, water scarcity and changing climate etc.
The increasing benefits of agriculture and agri-business are enormous – from job creation to higher income and most importantly, it gives the various economies of Africa a fair chance to compete globally and reduce pressure on their local currencies.
I call on global investors looking for high return on investment to look into Africa today and to various African leaders to partner the private sector like never before in creating enabling environment in the agricultural sector and place agriculture at the top of their business plan.
Osita Oparaugo Esq. is the MD/CEO of Footprint to Africa. A pan African investment strategist, Oparaugo stands at forefront of promoting intra African trade and bridging foreign investment in Africa.