Animal Agriculture in Africa: Opportunities for Growth
After Asia, Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent. With roughly 30.22 million square kilometers, it covers 6 percent of the Earth’s total surface area and 20 percent of the total land area. As of 2010, it hosts 1.02 billion people in 54 countries and it accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s human population. Although it has abundant natural resources, Africa remains the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent, the result of a variety of causes that include, but are not limited to, the spread of deadly diseases and viruses, poor governance, international law infractions, human rights violations, failed central planning, high levels of illiteracy and illness, lack of access to foreign capital, and frequent tribal and military conflicts. However, despite these obstacles, Africa’s expected economic growth is at about 4 percent for 2011 (owing to political unrest and regime changes) and 5.5 percent in 2012.
In view of Africa’s vast growth potentials, a number of governments have adopted partnership strategies with the continent. These initiatives are intended to open ‘new chapters’ in cooperation with promising African countries. The aim of this strategic emphasis on Africa is impinged on self-assured partnerships on equal terms as it is high-time to recognize Africa as a continent bursting with “opportunities for growth.” This attention can be partly explained given that in an increasing number of African countries, accountable and responsible governments are taking power following democratic elections or peaceful handovers, and are being kept in check by an active civil society. The projected high growth rates are tangible proofs of economic progress.
Tellingly, there are a number of key areas in which developed and transitioning countries hope to strengthen cooperation with African states. These include peace and security, good governance, agriculture (including livestock), manufacturing, and industry, climate and environment, energy sources, raw materials, and natural resources, and development, education, and research. All of these areas are directed to leverage Africa’s comparative advantages (i.e. low wages, nascent domestic markets, better educated citizenries, etc.) so that its growth-environment is improved.
As for animal agriculture, meat, milk, and eggs provide about one fifth of the protein in African diets. According to datasets, in 2003, Africa’s livestock population was estimated at 231 million cattle, 244 million sheep, 223 million goats, and 22 million pigs. Animal agriculture significantly contributes to agriculture-related total national outputs in Africa. It is estimated that livestock-derived food items alone contribute, on average, 30 percent to agricultural GDP. This estimate does not include non-food livestock products such as draught power, manure, and transportation, which enhance productivity of crop production, nor does it take into account intangible livestock contributions to rural communities through risk mitigation and wealth accumulation (i.e. savings).
The potential of animal agriculture in Africa has not received the attention it deserves. Policies and associated institutions promoting livestock development have been weak or absent in most African countries. Commercialization has not been a focus and livestock production remained predominantly subsistence-oriented, but a commercial orientation is quite likely to have a more sustainable effect in increasing incomes and improving food security. In view of this, it is crucial for African countries to develop policies, strategies, and programs that address constraints to the commercialization of its animal agriculture products. These interventions should consider the entire value chain, including input delivery, production, processing, marketing, and distribution.
In the end, rural agricultural development is one of the keys to poverty alleviation, food security, and national stability. This is why the development of rural areas and an increase in investment in sustainable animal agriculture are truly important goals for these new alliances or partnership. The Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations strives to assist Member countries to take full advantage of the contribution the rapidly growing and transforming livestock sector can make towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.