The Bread Basket of Africa: Who gets the soft middle and who is left with the crumbs?
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
In Africa, agribusiness, which is the business of agricultural production, is expected
to create a one trillion-dollar market by 2030. If the right partnerships and policies are
put in place, this could offer untold opportunities for Africans to become
‘agripreneurs’ (agricultural entrepreneurs) and take over ownership of their own
agricultural growth and socio-economic development.
Why Africa is ideal for agribusiness:
Africa has over half the global total of uncultivated, arable land
The continent has climates that allow for extended growing seasons
It has a youthful labour force, with over 60% of the continent’s population under 24 years of age
There is a growing population on the continent that could provide demand for more produce.
The current director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United
Nations (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, says that small-scale family farmers “should
be taken into account when we talk about creating conditions for agricultural
entrepreneurs to grow and thrive in Africa.”
Cooperatives and other associations are the only way for providing family farmers
with technical assistance, capacity building, financial resources and access to
modern technologies. They are also important to promote closer cooperation
between farmers and research institutions, to help smaller farmers gain a voice in
policy-making and to provide extension and advisory services to their members.
Da Silva went on to highlight the risks of the potentially rapid growth of agribusiness
in Africa, if “large-scale food processors and retailers manage to dominate the
What is preventing young Africans from becoming agripreneurs?
Younger, more educated Africans are moving to cities in search of better opportunities
These young people are discouraged by the difficulties of accessing funds or land
They are disheartened by the reliance on manual technology in small-scale farming
The low or erratic profits in farming dissuade them from seeing a viable future for themselves**
The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) recommends that
agriculture be seen as a commercial enterprise. It says that “focusing on the entire
value chain of the process - land tenure, farming technology, markets, and pricing -
would help transform food systems around the continent.”**
This initiative could encourage younger Africans to view agriculture as a viable
Co-operatives and NGOs like Cultivate Foundation are supporting African
entrepreneurs in business in the following ways:
helping small-scale farmers create high quality and ethical products (like honey, cocoa and moringa powder)
working with them to develop solid business models
helping these farmers find a fair route to market.
Developing African-owned and managed agribusiness will provide economic
empowerment to those who need it, and introduce fair trade products to the market.
As a recent post on the Global Policy website states: “To solve the world hunger
crisis, its necessary to do more than send emergency food aid to countries facing
famine. Leaders must address the globalized system of agricultural production and
trade that favours large corporate agriculture and export-oriented crops while
discriminating against small-scale farmers and agriculture oriented to local needs.”***
If Africa is the bread basket of the world, the question we need to address is:
Who gets to eat the best bits and who is left with the crumbs?