Ghana-Kenya-Morocco Youth in Agribusiness Webinar.
This webinar we held on 20th June 2020 from 11:00 to 14:00 GMT. It was streamed through ZOOM and Facebook Live.
KEY TAKEAWAY FROM THE GHAMOSA-AKAM AGRIBUSINESS WEBINAR.
‘’SUSTAINING AGRICULTURE TO ENSURE FOOD SECURITY IN AFRICA AMID COVID-19 PANDEMIC: KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE AMONG AFRICAN YOUTHS’’
As associations of African professionals created with the mandate of promoting continental unity and supporting continental development, we acknowledge and understand that the food security challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic inevitably means that necessary joint continental action is required to sustain agricultural productivity to ensure food security for the continent.
There have been various calls for a joint African Response to defeat the COVID-19. For example, the King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI proposed an African leader’s initiative aimed at establishing an operational framework to accompany African countries in their various phases of managing the pandemic. The heads of states of the East African Community hold regular online meetings to develop a collaborative approach to fight the pandemic. These are pragmatic and action-oriented initiatives, enabling the sharing of experiences and best practices to address the health, economic, and social impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
It is in response to such calls of joint approach that, the Ghana Morocco Old Students Association and the Association of Kenyan Alumni of Morocco organized the Webinar, under the theme: ‘’Sustaining Agriculture to ensure food security in Africa amid COVID-19 pandemic: knowledge exchange among African youths’’. The webinar brought together Morocco trained Agriculture Experts in Africa. The goal of this webinar was to create a platform for these Experts to share ideas and deliberate on how the youth of the continent can work together to contribute to ensuring food security in Africa amid the COVID 19 Pandemic.
Agriculture and Rural Development in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic
Each African country has its own identity, its diversities, its development trajectory, its resources or constraints, its strategic choices, its experiences, etc. However, under the threat of COVID19 pandemic, we need to be united as African friends, share experiences and capitalize on best practices since our countries share a lot of similarities, commonalities, constraints, and strengths.
Due to the COVID19 pandemic, priorities have changed, while some were put on hold. But agriculture’s position did not change. It was regarded as a high priority sector in almost all countries across the world.
When we talk about agriculture, you cannot separate it from rural development, especially in the African continent where more than 80% of the population lives in rural areas.
For Africa to achieve sustainable rural development, and by extension agricultural development, we need, as Africans to ask ourselves the following basic but important questions:
1. Rural development is for who? By this, we mean that it is necessary to know who we are in order to focus our choices on the interests of the African countries and the well-being of our populations. In this sense, it should be remembered that Africa has the youngest population in the world, and which is still very rural. Therefore, the rural world in Africa remains a vital space, which, if abandoned, it may generate the rural exodus towards the cities and therefore it would pose other problems that are more difficult to manage (slums, hygiene, insecurity issues, etc.), without forgetting the problems of international migration which constitute a huge loss of African human capital because it is always the young workers who leave first! With this regard, empowering rural youths to venture into profitable agribusiness will be key to sustainable rural development.
2. Can we develop without peace in our African context? Some African countries make great progress in rural development but retrogress sharply after experiencing peace conflicts such as ethnic wars, border crisis, post-election violence etc. Do you think that farmers can invest heavy capital in land exposed to insecurity?
3. Can we develop our countries when we are net consumers of goods, products, and services from other continents? During the COVID19 crisis, we all discovered the importance of consuming local products. With closed intercountry borders, we can only access local products and services. This means that this crisis is also an opportunity seen from another angle, in particular, to allow the emergence of "made in Africa" products. It is therefore paramount to establish and enhance the concept of "local products for local consumption". Functional regional trading blocs can hugely enhance the consumption of “ made in Africa”, promoting continental integration.
4. Human capital or economic development? For the past fifteen years, Morocco launched an integrated project for human capital development which placed the human factor at the center of public policy. Africa must wake up to the reality that it is the human factor that can create economic wealth and not vice versa. Again, in Morocco, the best and the most prestigious universities are agricultural universities. They compete with schools of medicine to enroll the top-ranking students from high school. This approach has had a very positive impact on the image associated with agriculture. In the contrary, studying agriculture in most sub-Saharan countries is associated with all manner of prejudice. Are our countries investing in quality agricultural education?
5. Union of convenience or complementarity of African countries: Are we, as African communities, capable of overcoming obstacles to create a solid and united Union to complement and supplement each other in the face the various challenges, and to establishing strong links of economic win-win situations, favorable exchange, mutual aid (economic, human, etc.) between member countries? Initiatives such as formations of alumni associations and professional groups would be key to creating platforms for intercountry knowledge exchange and sharing.
Answering the above basic and simple questions leads to a discovery that agricultural development should never be handled separately: it is an aggregate of well-designed rural development interventions that focus on a holistic rural appraisal.
Can Moroccan agriculture be a good model for Sub-Saharan Africa?
Moroccan agriculture serves as a benchmark for many African countries. Regardless of its climatic disadvantages, Morocco has risen to become one of Africa’s giant leaders in agriculture. How did Morocco do it? Several rural development strategies were put in place during the past decades. These strategies include:
- Dam policy since independence that led it the irrigation of a million hectares. This was made possible by the political will of King Mohammed II, who developed many water dams allowing the country to have huge water reservoirs for irrigation and domestic use.
- Several programs of basic socio-economic infrastructure: rural roads. Electrification Program PAGER), drinking water supply.
- National Initiative for Human Development (INDH). This program focuses on developing capacities of people living in marginalized rural areas and poor neighborhoods, and also financing of income-generating activities.
- National agricultural development roadmap dubbed “Green Morocco Plan” especially it's Pillar II that support smallholder farmers, (2008-2020)
- The new agricultural development roadmap dubbed "Green Generation" which has a very significant component of sustainable development (2020-2030)
- Creation of a special fund for rural development
- Social cohesion fund that targets disadvantaged populations ...
Just to mention a few, but clearly, Morocco has a lot to teach sub-Saharan countries.
Is it time for Morocco to join ECOWAS?
Shall the AfCFTA work?
Because is only through functional continental integration that Africa can truly cooperate.
For Africa to achieve the desired agricultural development, there must be political will from the government. Every African country must be able to develop an integrated long-term rural and agricultural development plan that offers a holistic rural development approach with clear intended results. For instance, through the Green Morocco Plan, Morocco in now competing with European countries like Spain and France in the export market.
More about the event in the media: