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New report: Agriculture in Africa 2022

The Agriculture in Africa 2022 Focus Report, produced in partnership with OCP Group, contains interviews with key figures in the agriculture sector to address the question: How can agriculture in Africa meet the challenges of the future?

Resource efficiency and maximisation through the creation of a circular economy are central to a green economic model. Image credit: Oxford Business Group

Resource efficiency and maximisation through the creation of a circular economy are central to a green economic model. Image credit: Oxford Business Group

Since the year 2000 the average economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has frequently outpaced the rest of the world. According to the IMF, the total GDP output for sub-Saharan Africa was estimated at USD2.1-trillion in 2022. By 2026 this is forecast to rise to USD2.9-trillion.

At the same time, the region’s population is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, presenting challenges of its own. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that by 2050 global food production would have to rise by about 50% over 2012 levels to meet demand from a population that is growing in numbers and appetite.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s vast untapped natural resources will be key to ensuring that food production keeps pace with global demand. Over 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land lies in the region’s savannahs and will play a key role in feeding the world’s growing population.

Agriculture will also help drive the industrialisation of numerous African economies. However, the path to industrialisation needs to strike a careful balance between economic development and global climate change mitigation efforts. As it stands, the continent contributes the least to the climate crisis – responsible for 4% of global carbon emissions, according to the Centre of Climate and Energy Solutions.

In most sub-Saharan African countries, the agriculture and forestry industries are the primary sources of carbon emissions. If developed in an unsustainable way, emissions from these sectors may increase exponentially through unsustainable land exploitation and management strategies, such as deforestation and inefficient fertiliser use.

Ensuring the continent’s transition to a green economic model is therefore vital. A green economy is low carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive. It is an alternative development model that aims for sustainable development while also prioritising environmental and social well-being.

Resource efficiency and maximisation through the creation of a circular economy are central to this model. In practice, agriculture in a green and circular economy would be underpinned by renewable energy to power technological innovations such as drones and remote and wireless irrigation systems, alongside sustainable farming techniques such as no-till farming.

Food loss and waste would be minimised through efficient supply chains and by-products, which would be recycled back into the agricultural process to regenerate topsoil. The uptake of these technologies and techniques is still low. They are generally more expensive relative to traditional farming techniques and therefore require buy-in from farmers, governments and other stakeholders.

In a region that already faces urgent food insecurity challenges, the long-term benefits of a green circular economic model may be hard to see. However, with the region facing a disproportionate burden from the repercussions of climate change, it is in the best interest of governments to build green economies. Fortunately, many counties have recognised the pressing need to adopt a sustainable model for economic growth.

This is an extract of the document available from Oxford Business Group