Africa Inc: Technology and food security

  • 13th September 2016
  • by secretary
11 September 2016. Africa Inc: Technology and food security. (Africa Inc airs on Business Day TV channel 412). The World Bank says agriculture contributes 32% to Africa’s GDP and is set to become the new economic engine for a continent that has become too dependent on commodities.

But is Africa ready to develop this sector as it is still plagued by unsupportive government policy, inadequate financial backing and unpredictable weather patterns?

Wessel Lemmer, senior agricultural economist at Absa Agribusiness (a member of the Barlcays

Africa Group Ltd), says Africa should look to the US where companies are employing expensive technologies to meet increasing food demand. African farmers need to be educated about how to make use of this technology and have to find property that can be put down as security when financing projects, says Lemmer.

“With technology you also need to have policy certainty about agriculture, about land. [There needs to be] stable, more democratic based governments where you can see economic growth which is also needed.”

Lemmer tells Africa Inc what type of technology farmers can make use of to ensure food security.

Mamadou Biteye, MD for Africa at the Rockefeller Foundation, says the foundation is investing

heavily in the agricultural sector. “In Africa, 40% of everything we produce is lost due to lack of storage facilities, poor infrastructure and disrupted markets.”

In Tanzania the foundation has helped to produce hermetic storage for maize and grains, which prevents contamination by insects and moisture, increasing shelf life and reducing wastage.

Biteye explains how a lack of information about the agricultural market is hindering many African farmers’ growth in the sector.

Chris Sturgess, Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE’s) director of commodities, says commodity exchanges are crucial to the development of agricultural markets.The JSE entered into a venture with the Zambian Commodities Exchange in 2014 to offer derivatives products for the grains sector.
He tells Africa Inc whether the initiative is beginning to bear any fruit while KwaZulu-Natal farmer Xolani Gumede explains how he made a success of his strawberry farm.