ECA lays out ClimDev’s case for turning Africa’s agriculture into an engine of development

Marakech, 09 October, 2014 (ECA) - A senior official of the Climate for Development (ClimDev) Africa Programme today drew the attention of climate scientists and policy makers to the immense prospects that the current African youth dividend and opportunities in SMART agriculture offer the Continent for turning its agriculture into a veritable engine of development.

Ms Fatima Denton, Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and Director of Special Initiatives Division at ECA, was reflecting at the opening session of the Fourth Annual Conference on

Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) in Marrakech, Morocco on the theme “Africa can Feed Africa Now: Translating Climate Knowledge into Action”.  She said that Africa currently possesses a demographic dividend, predominantly comprised of a youthful population with over 60% under 30 and that Africa is globally experiencing the fastest rate of urbanization with 50% of the population expected to be living in urban areas by 2030.

 Getting the best from these opportunities would require a deep reflection not just how to produce more food, but also on how it can be produced using SMART agriculture, she cautioned. Over 500 people, mainly climate change experts, researchers and policy makers are attending the three-day conference which was officially opened by the Moroccan Minister Delegate for Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, Mrs. HarimaEl Haite. 

Agriculture in Africa employs about 70% of the population but experts are worried that the current form of agricultural practice is unlikely to serve the aspirations of the younger generation, unless the sector is turned into a source of lucrative business rather than stay as a simple subsistence way of life. The year 2014 has been declared the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa » and the choice of the theme for CCDA-IV was deliberately made to incite deepened discussions on how Africa could best translate climate knowledge into action for the transformation of its agricultural sector.

Ms Denton traced how leaders across Africa have showed consistent commitment towards agriculture’s role in Africa’s development, including reiterating their resolve in the Maputo Declaration, to uphold the allocation of at least 10% of public expenditure of their respective countries to agriculture to ensure its efficiency.  “Weaving all these together requires climate information services in overcoming the current challenges posed by climate change”, she said, because climate information services enable better integration of the water, energy and land nexus. She referred to the current Africa Agriculture Status Report of 2013, which states that agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa depends on the climate as irrigation only constitutes  10% of productive land.  “Therefore, managing climate change remains an indispensable component of any future investment in agricultural development”, she argued.

Ms Denton regretted the fact that Africa’s high economic growth and rising GDP in the last decade, does not reveal the full story of the potential of agriculture as a bedrock to erect and safeguard its current and future development. “The increase in extractive minerals and other non-renewable resources have propelled growth in recent years and injected huge capital flow into the economy, but in many ways, this increase has diverted policy focus away from agriculture”, she said.  “We are missing the opportunity to use agriculture as a foundation for our industrial pathway”, she insisted, bemoaning the fact that “agriculture has not served as a transformational hub in fuelling economic growth and propelling industrialization”.  She recalled that pre-industrial agricultural in the developed world had been largely predicated on three variables: climate, culture, and the deployment of smart technologies. “With agricultural transformation came migration, industrialization, which enabled countries such as Britain, to increase both population growth and improving living standards.  

“Indeed, no industrialized country has achieved sustainable economic growth without a solid agricultural foundation” Denton said.  Urging participants to use this conference to start stitching the various pillars of African development using climate information services, she explained that consolidating the potential for agriculture and using climate information services would have a multiplier effect in catering for Africa’s youth, shared prosperity, and the provision of food, water and energy security.

 The opening session of CCDA-IV was also addressed by the Moroccan Minister Delegate for Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, Mrs. HarimaEl Haite ; the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok; the Resident Representative of AfDB to the Kingdom of Morocco, Ms Yacine Fal, as well as a representative of the African Union Commission.

The Fourth Annual Conference on Climate Change (CCDA-IV) is organized by the Climate for development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) programme which is jointly implemented by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank.

The programme was entrusted with a mandate by the African Heads of States and Governments to improve climate information services in support of African development agenda. The Fourth Annual Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) ends on 10 October 2014.


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