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Release ‘bottlenecks’ choking Africa’s agri-food sector, urges FAO chief

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Release ‘bottlenecks’ choking Africa’s agri-food sector, urges FAO chief

The UN agriculture chief warned on Monday that the severe underfunding of Africa’s agri-food sector has increased food insecurity and is hampering the future development of countries across the continent.

NEW YORK, USA, May 11, 2021, – / African Media Agency (AMA) / – “Let’s unblock the bottlenecks that are holding back potential by increasing coordination and enhancing human capacity in African nations”, urged QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Speaking at the launch of FAO’s latest report, Public Expenditure on Food and Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, he added that funds must also be unlocked and public finance systems streamlined, “so that the scarce resources we have do not go unspent. “.

Based on a “rigorous analysis over the past 15 years, made possible by strong collaboration with our Members in the region,” the FAO chief explained that the report highlights a gap between long-standing political commitments and financial realities facing 13 Saharan sub-countries.

Agriculture criminalization

Despite meetings of the African Union (AU) member states, which began in 2003, in which they promised to boost social and economic growth by committing 10% of their national budgets to food and agriculture, this company continues to unfulfilled.

A survey of the Food and Agricultural Policy Analysis and Monitoring Program (MAFAP), an FAO initiative that tracks public spending in Africa, found that only Malawi has consistently met that goal.

In some years, Mali has also succeeded, but Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda have never succeeded.

In some cases, food and agriculture account for only three percent of national budgets and, on average, little of that is available for agricultural and food development. Insufficient implementation capacity has also left a fifth of funds undisbursed.

According to the report, agriculture is being implicitly penalized.

Spend better

Marco Sánchez, Deputy Director of FAO’s Agrifood Economics Division, described research showing that technical efficiency in agriculture increases dramatically as spending approaches $ 80 per capita. And although it starts to decline after that, most African countries don’t come close to that amount.

While acknowledging a “narrow fiscal space” to expand public investment in Africa, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, he argued that efficiency gains could be generated through better spending.

According to the report, most of the national spending on food and agriculture in Africa subsidizes fertilizers, tools and other inputs, which according to Sánchez tend to show diminishing returns over time.

At the same time, FAO’s chief economist, Máximo Torero, highlighted the importance of generating quality data to guide agricultural investment decisions, with today’s report being an important step on that path.

Furthermore, public investments need to be more closely monitored and their results used to catalyze private investment.

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