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Investment in food and agriculture can unlock bottlenecks in development

A section of the National Dialogue
17/12/2018

FAO, Government of Ghana and private sector call for greater collaboration

Major stakeholders in the country stressed the need for comprehensive and coherent national policy framework to create an enabling environment for sustainable agribusiness development. The national dialogue held recently in Accra promoted investment in food and agriculture and deepened the understanding of the constraints and opportunities in the sector.

The dialogue, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Ghana, in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), served as a platform to discuss challenges faced by the private sector and government regarding investing in agriculture across the value chain.

Agriculture financing remains one of the most important challenges facing the sector in Africa. According to estimates, an average net annual financial investment requires USD 11 billion in agriculture and agro-industries to meet the projected food security demands in Africa by 2050.

Reorienting the mindset of farmers to see agriculture as a business

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, observed that agriculture is a neglected sector in Africa in terms of allocation of resources. He also prompted participants to advocate for agriculture as a business, saying, “Engaging in commercial agriculture is a business in itself.” Haile-Gabriel further emphasized that evidence indicates that returns on investments in agriculture could be even higher than in many other sectors.

The FAO Regional Representative also noted that, considering public pronouncements by State officials and available strategic policy documents, the Government of Ghana views agriculture as a priority sector. “As a symbolic gesture to demonstrate leadership, the government should look at increasing budgetary allocation to help unlock some of the structural bottlenecks as well as leverage private investment.”

Ghana’s agricultural sector experiencing growth

A statement from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture delivered by Collins Ntim, the Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, stressed the prominent position of agriculture in the Ghanaian economy with its enormous opportunities to create wealth, jobs and enhance livelihoods.

“The government continues to put in place mechanisms and instruments to truly make the private sector an engine of agricultural growth and an agent of transformation,” Ntim said, adding that continuous engagement with the private sector is needed to better understand how the incentives and enablers are stimulating investment in agriculture.

The agriculture sector has seen significant growth in recent years, and because of the increased activity, the provisional agricultural sector Gross Domestic Product growth rate increased from 2.9 percent in 2016 to 6.1percent in 2017. According to the Deputy Minister, the government’s flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs, injected dynamism in the agriculture sector, further creating opportunities for private sector investment throughout the agriculture value chain.

The role of the private sector and the call for more collaboration

The private sector, particularly Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), represents about 85 percent of businesses in Ghana and contribute about 70 percent to GDP while offering employment to women, youth as well as low-skilled labour. 

The three panel discussions zeroed in on many challenges and opportunities, including the need for greater outreach on the part of government to share their many initiatives and further engage private sector in policy development and implementation. The necessity to encourage the youth to get involved in agriculture as a business opportunity was also emphasized.

The event, titled Promoting Investment in Food and Agriculture: Recognising the Gains Made and the Future Perspectives by Government and Private Sector, brought together about 100 participants from FAO, AGRA, the Agribusiness Unit of the Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate (PPMED) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), farmer organizations, and the private sector.