Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, has called on African governments and donors to treat the agricultural sector in Africa as a commercially viable sector with a potential to create millions of jobs and dollars in revenue.
Elumelu, who is also chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Founder of The Tony Foundation, made the call while delivering a keynote address to agribusiness investors and stakeholders at The Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC, United States of America.
According to him, agriculture should not be seen as a social welfare program.
He advocated that African farmers should be treated as entrepreneurs while urging governments to create the enabling environment for MSMEs to access finance.
Organised by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on April 26th 2016, the event, which gathered a host of multi-disciplinary stakeholders in agriculture and food business, presented a platform to discuss transformations in the global food system necessary to feed growing cities.
Speaking from an African perspective, Elumelu advocated for public and private sector collaboration, recommending the adoption of an Africapitalist approach to achieve the transformation and growth needed to meet increasing demand for safe and sustainable food.
“If the public and private sector work together in shared purpose, we will be able to retain the desired knowledge and manpower in rural areas in order to support agriculture. We will also be able to control the rate of urbanisation, because we would have made it possible for our young people to earn a good living and grow their businesses right where they were born and raised as agro-allied entrepreneurs,” he said.
On the private sector responsibilities, he advocated for large investments that promote mechanized farming and processing as well as capital to partner with the government to provide key infrastructure supportive of sustained growth in the agriculture sector. “I believe that if we transform the agriculture sector, we will transform the African continent!” said Elumelu.
He concluded by appealing to the U.S. government for a decisive congressional action to reform emergency food assistance by providing USAID with the flexibility to ship or purchase food regionally to avoid distorting local markets and further impoverishing local small holder farmers in Africa.
According to him, flexibility is the right way to approach food aid that will save more lives.
“Food aid must not become an industry. As an African, I want to appeal to the U.S. Congress and the next president of the United States to make the correct and courageous decision in the next re-authorisation of the farm bill to fight famine with flexibility.”
Delivering his speech, co-chair of the Global Food and Agriculture Program, Dan Glickman, stated that action and innovation by the private sector are important to feed cities.
“Feeding the world’s cities is an enormous challenge but also an enormous opportunity”, he said.
Other international speakers present at the event were Doug Bereuter, Co-chair, Global Food and Agriculture Program; Member, U.S. Senate, Honourable Jack Reed; and Rajiv Shah, senior advisor to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a distinguished service professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, among others.