Huge Potential, Large Population, Widespread Poverty. African Agriculture
The African continent covers 20 percent of the Earth’s land area (30.3 million km2) and hosts 18 percent of the world’s population (1.4 billion people). It is the third continent per agricultural land area (1.1 ha, 24 percent) after Asia and the Americas (FAO, 2020). At the same time, Africa is the poorest continent in the world, where farmers earn less than 2 dollars per day, falling below the poverty line.
Despite these sad facts, there’s hope in learning that a huge campaign to improve the life of African people − by getting rid of poverty and hunger − has already been activated. One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to end hunger in Africa by 2025. Many international organisations like FAO, Grow Africa and Farm Africa are committed to achieving it.
‘Agriculture is by far the single most important economic activity in Africa. It provides employment for about two-thirds of the continent’s working population and for each country contributes an average of 30 to 60 percent of gross domestic product and about 30 percent of the value of exports. Nonetheless, arable land and land under permanent crops occupy only about 6 percent of Africa’s total land area.’ (Britannica)
The following key challenges of African agriculture are:
Population growth. It will double by 2050, and quadruple by 2100, making it harder to feed communities and generate wealth (Statista, 2022).
Source picture: Statista, 2022
Gender inequality. Women in Africa represent nearly 50 percent of farm labour and contribute to up 70 percent of food production. But many women lose their land after losing their husband too. ‘Activists are fighting to introduce or strengthen laws intended to give women more secure access to land and are combating social norms and practices that stand in their way’ (UN, Africa Renewal).
80 percent of Africa’s farmland consists of smallholder farms and family farms, most of which are less than five acres (The Borgen Project).
Poor access to soil inputs. Many farmers use traditional farming methods, such as animal waste or cover crops to save on fertilizers. Despite these efforts, they are still unable to replenish their soil. Many cannot afford irrigation pumps and don’t have access to synthetic fertilizers or pesticides if they need them.
Low connectivity and bad infrastructure – a vast amount of farmers do not have proper mobile connection or access to external markets. Due to bad infrastructure, they have problems with delivery and connectivity as well.
Realising Africa’s full agricultural potential will require significant investment, as the table below shows.
Source: McKinsey&Company, 2019
Nevertheless, ‘a promising transformation has already started in Africa’s farmlands. Family farmers are increasingly using innovative approaches and scientific research, combined with traditional knowledge, to increase the productivity of their fields, diversify their crops, boost their nutrition, and build climate resilience’ (Africa Renewal, 2022).
Digitalisation and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can be game changers in this extraordinary effort. The AfCFTA can radically transform Africa’s rural prosperity. This regional single market, covering 1.2 billion consumers, is a major opportunity to boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and broaden economic inclusion. (UN, Africa Renewal, 2022)
Farmer Charlie is proud of contributing to the development of Africa’s agriculture and helping to fight hunger in this region. In March 2023 we have officially started a new project in Côte d’Ivoire, in collaboration with local enterprise Cool Lions and funded by Innovate UK in the context of the Energy Catalyst Round 9 programme.
Together we can transform Africa’s agriculture and work towards the UN SDGs that are so crucial not only for Africa, but for the entire world.