Africa has approximately 60 percent of the world’s arable land, 600 million hectares of uncultivated land, that’s according to a 2010 report by research firm Mckinsey. However, the level of private sector investment in agriculture is low in African countries compared to agricultural powerhouses like Israel.
It is on that note that the African Union Commission in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is in the process of creating guidelines that will inform public-private sector investment in African agriculture through analysing public-private partnerships reports from 8 African countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
“The guidelines will help trigger finance from the private sector to finance countries’ agricultural investment plans, availing improved farmer-market linkages and employment creation in rural areas and cities, said FAO Agribusiness Officer, Stephanie Gallatova.
The guidelines are meant to improve coordination and understanding between governments and the private sector with an aim to turn the continent’s agriculture to a market focused and modernised food sector, while also improving the lives of people in rural areas and cities.
Speaking on the issue, Dr Janet Edeme AUC Head of Division for Rural Economy reiterated the need to involve youth and women by providing preferential entry and participation in the agricultural sector in Africa.
Closer to home, Kenya has a bustling private sector, however, one of the country’s largest public-private partnership projects, the Galana Kulalu Food Security Project has so far stalled. For instance, early this year, Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa announced that the government was planning to give 20,000 acres under the project to private firms in order to increase production and decrease the cost of maize flour; which has been facing price spikes
However, opposition has arisen from communities in the Tana River and Kilifi area, with claims that private sector involvement was a plot to loot. In particular, members of the Kilifi County Assembly have been vocal about the project, calling for it to be devolved to the county to ensure it benefits the community, which currently is not happening.
The new guidelines are expected to provide better ways of handling public-private partnerships to ensure that local communities, as well as investors, get to benefit from the partnerships.