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his month’s prize letter Agribusiness – Africa’s gem Walk the talk

Thanks for giving agriculture a central position (“Agribusiness – Africa’s Hid- den Gem’) in the August/September issue of African Business magazine. Once again Africans are reminded of the horrifying reali- ties of hunger on the African continent. The continent is not only plagued with poverty amidst oil resources and vast mineral depos- its, but it is also threatened with increasing numbers of starving people surrounded by vast tracks of arable land. What then is the problem? We as a people have failed ourselves but our leaders have disappointed even more. These leaders have continuously paid lip service to basic developmental issues such as agriculture. They go about seeking loans for only frivolous things.

There is also the need to check the unfettered importation of rice and other agroproduce into countries on the continent. This phenomenon erodes strides made on agriculture in Africa. Also, as part of corporate responsibility, it would be prudent for giant LETERS

If what is reported in the August/September issue of this magazine is anything to go by, then there is much to be happy about – at least there is an increased awareness that Africans can’t make any meaningful progress when many are starving. The obvious question is, how can a hungry man make any profitable deal with a well-fed man? Like Esau in the Bible, the starving individual would trade all he has for a little bread. Abraham Maslow was very right – you need to fill your belly before thinking about other needs.

If the Green Revolution did the trick for India, Mexico and other countries, why can’t it do the same for Africa? We need to take lessons from the concept to apply to African countries to rid the continent of the recurring menace of starvation. We must walk the talk on agriculture.

he way forward for agribusiness in Africa: the debate rages.

agribusiness on the continent such as Bidco to help feed the starving masses around their areas of operation. With the needed attention and commitment, Africa should be able to feed its people and the world.

Cyril Pourideme Dery

Wa, Ghana ide our ‘gem’

Agribusiness, Africa’s hidden gem? (Af- rican Business, August/September issue 2011) Since the biblical days of Joseph, Africa has been a place of refuge during famine and need. The most sparsely populated of the continents, with millions of hectares of fertile soil, African land has been coveted by coun- tries whose soils are either infertile or facing exhaustion. Seventy per cent of the world’s cocoa beans have come from the continent over the last 25 years in spite of farmers barely making a living after a substantial commitment in labour – most underpaid.

Indian companies (with government loan guarantees), Middle Eastern companies such as in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, not to mention China, are all leasing tens of thousands of hectares in hopes of growing food

Prize Letter Win a free annual subscription! AfricanBusinesswill award a free one-year subscription to the reader whose letter is chosen as the Prize Letter for that month. (Existing subscribers will receive a free annual renewal.) Your views on Africa and matters affecting Africa are very important to this publication. We encourage you to share them with thousands of our readers in Africa and all over the world. Please address your comments to: The Editor, African Business, 7 Coldbath Square, London ECIR 4LQ, UK, or email editorial@africasia.com. All letters and emails must bear the writer’s name and address, although you can ask for your name to be withheld.

for their growing populations while Africans risk landlessness in land-leasing countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique and Senegal. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, grain prices (largely based on commodity trade positions) are on the increase.

It looks to me as though your ‘agribusiness gem’ was hastened out of hiding a few years ago and it will be up to Africans who are still net importers of grain and other staples such as palm oil and rice to hide that ‘gem’ from the rest of the world or become paupers in their own homes.

To be fair, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and other non-African countries are subject to the land grab planned for cattle, dairy, rice, wheat and other foodstuffs. Libya and Egypt have recently been investors. Still this is no gem of a business where local governments are leasing vast tracts while their agricultural policies do not foresee food self-sufficiency for their own populations.

eonard Garden Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire isgraceful waste of food

Thank you for addressing Africa’s agri- business sector and the important role that it has to play (African Business, August/ September issue 2011). But I should like to draw editor Anver Versi’s attention to an important point, in the – at least – short- term ability of the world’s farmers to meet this formidable challenge.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister, spelled it out. She made the observation that at least 50% of Africa’s food harvest is wasted through the continent’s farmers’ inability to get their product to market. It is clear that in order for Africa to play its part in finding a solution to the impending global food security crisis, the continent’s physical infrastructure has to be radically improved. Furthermore, there is a huge need for the continent to build modern efficient storage facilities and chilled warehouses.

And it is not just in Africa that food is wasted. No less than 30% of food products are estimated to be wasted in both the EU and US, and disposed of in landfill sites, because of inefficient supply chains.

In the light of so many people in the world going hungry, these are disgraceful statistics and it is plain as well as improving production, eliminating waste should be given an equal priority.

ahmood Katende Mwanza, Tanzania

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African Business | November 2011