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Africa holds almost 50% of the world’s uncultivated land - World Bank

The World Bank says Africa holds almost 50 percent of the world’s uncultivated land, which is suited for growing food crops comprising as many as 450 million hectares that are not forested, protected or densely populated.

The Bank in its latest report launched on Monday titled: ”Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness”, said Africa used less than two percent of its renewable water sources, compared to a world average of five percent.

The Director of the sustainable Development Department for the Africa Region, at the World Bank, Mr Jamal Saghir said, Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030.

According to him, that could only be done if they expanded their access to more capital, electricity, better technology and irrigated land to grow high-value nutritious foods.

He also indicated that African governments could work more closely with agribusinesses to feed the region’s fast-growing urban population.

He said Africa’s food systems, currently valued at US$313 billion a year from agriculture, could triple if governments and business leaders radically rethink their policies and support to agriculture, farmers, and agribusinesses, which together account for nearly 50 percent of Africa's economic activity.

“The time has come for making African agriculture and agribusiness a catalyst for ending poverty,” Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region said.

Mr Diop stated that Africans could not overstate the importance of agriculture to Africa’s determination to maintain and boost its high growth rates, create more jobs, significantly reduce poverty, and grow enough cheap, nutritious food to feed its families, export its surplus crops, while safeguarding the continent's environment.

He opined that African countries could tap into booming markets in rice, maize, soybeans, sugar, palm oil, bio-fuel and feedstock and emerge as major exporters of these commodities on world markets similar to the successes scored by Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Mr Diop noted that for Sub-Saharan Africa, the most dynamic sectors were likely to be rice, feed grains, poultry, dairy, vegetable oils, horticulture and processed foods to supply domestic markets.

The Director of Agribusiness at the International Finance Corporation, Mr Oscar Chemerinski, mentioned that there were now much better opportunities to tap private sector financing for agricultural development.

He said companies could provide financing directly through interlinked value chains, provided that contracts would be enforced, especially for high value exports and some products that required immediate proceeding.

The World Bank Director for Financial and Private Sector Development in Africa, Mr Gaiv Tata, also stated that African farmers and businesses must be empowered through good policies, increased public and private investments and strong public-private partnerships.

He said agriculture and agribusiness should be at the top of the development and business agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He therefore called for strong leadership and commitment from both public and private sectors for the development of the agriculture sector.

The report notes that Africa can also draw on many local successes to guide governments and investors toward positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.

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