By Mpho Tebele
GABORONE – A meeting of the African Caucus of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG), which was held in Gaborone recently, has agreed on a holistic approach to transform agriculture and agri-business on the continent.
The intention is for governments in Africa to develop the agriculture sector for purposes of jobs creation and fighting poverty.
The meeting has identified commercial agriculture and agribusiness as key potential sector to transform African economies which are highly dependent on oil and mineral revenues.
The two-day meeting, which ended on August 4, released a declaration document stating that the transformation of the agriculture sector will entail policies, technologies, private sector participation, value chains, sustainable job creation for youth and women, as well as agriculture infrastructure financing and financial inclusion.
The document states that public spending in agriculture by African governments was still below the level required to transform the sector and increase its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product.
The document further said the current approach to move from subsistence to commercial agriculture was inadequate.
However, the document noted, African governors of the IMF and WBG committed to enhancing the volume of investments and efficiency of expenditure in support of transforming agriculture and agro-processing.
The memorandum, which will be presented to the head of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, called for support of Africa’s agriculture transformation agenda from the World Bank Group, with a particular focus on strengthening ICTs to facilitate access to finance, technologies, land acquisition and markets at affordable cost to smallholder farmers.
The meeting was attended by ministers responsible for finance and economic planning and governors of central banks in Africa.
Officially opening the caucus, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi said collaborative efforts were crucial in Africa’s economic transformation quest. Masisi said a key challenge common across the African continent was how to generate more and better employment opportunities. He said the high economic growth rate witnessed in some part of African continents was still not significantly translated into improvement and wellbeing of majority their citizens.
“To address this twin challenges it is critical that inclusive growth be made an integral part of all our development strategies and economic pathways,” he said.
According to Masisi, all stakeholders including government, donor agencies and the private sector must target and underline their investment plans towards a shared goal of sustainable and inclusive growth.
“To facilitate this, public sector investment must be targeted towards reducing real and perceived business risk in enabling financing and improvement in infrastructure thus attracting private sector investment,” he said.
Addressing a press on August 4, African Caucus and Minister of Finance and Economic Development chairperson, Kenneth Matambo said the meeting was held to discuss issues of concern on the continent.
“We discussed issues that we would like to raise when we have the opportunity to meet with the heads of IMF and World Bank,” he said.
He said the meeting focused on the role of agriculture in Africa.
“We had a topic on agriculture policies and reforms. We have policies, but we can come up with even better policies. We also discussed the issue of reforms of agriculture on the continent. We discussed the topic of agricultural technologies and value chains,” he said.
The two-day forum was held under the theme: “Economic Transformation and Jobs Creation: A focus on Agriculture and Agribusiness”. Over 200 delegates discussed issues of mutual interest and took a common position to present to the heads of the Bretton Woods Institutions. The caucus provides a platform on which African countries can articulate their positions jointly and guide their development partners on Africa’s key priority areas in their development agenda.
Also under discussion was agricultural policy foundations, financing, land tenure and markets, technologies for agricultural development and climate smart agriculture, the role of private sector, agricultural value chains and sustainable jobs creation for youth and women, fiscal policy to support agricultural transformation in Africa, and financial deepening and inclusion to support agricultural development in Africa.
The findings of the deliberations will inform the 2017 Memorandum of African Governors to the heads of the Bretton Woods Institutions, being the president of the World Bank Group ,Dr Jim Yong Kim and the managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.
The African Caucus was established in 1963, as the “African Group,” with the objective of strengthening the voice of African governors in the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs), i.e. the IMF and the WBG, on development issues of particular interest to Africa.