• Greg Bows

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

career option.

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?






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