- A panel consisting of Italian leaders togather with international and African leaders has today appealed for focused investments on smallholders farmers in Africa in order to avoid a further and deepening crisis amidst the already ugly scars of the global slum effects.
Hosted by the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, at the presidential Palace, the panel noted that the African continent has immense potential, and that investing in agriculture would enable African men and women to unleash this potential, and for Africans to feed themselves and grow their way out of poverty.
However, it was also clearly indicated that African countries need to do their part by getting the policies right and giving agriculture its due by investing much more, as was explianed by the Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), who also said the developed countries on the other hand must re-engage in agriculture and honour their aid commitments.
“We must not allow Africa to slide back. Investing in smallholder farming is the most sustainable safety net against poverty,” said Mr Nwanze.
He said poverty in Africa has a rural face, saying more than 70 per cent of poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture, where often farmers are women and around one third of all rural households are headed by women.
While praising the decision by the G8 leaders under Italy’s presidency to make agriculture central to the July summit in L’Aquila, the IFAD president added: “I am confident, however, that in continued partnership and with a renewed global commitment, we can enable African countries to lay the groundwork for a brighter future for their people,” he concluded.
Also included in the panel, which was in part to commemorate the Africa Day, were Giulio Tremonti, Italian Minister of Economy and Finance; Romano Prodi, UN Secretary-General Special Representative and of the African Union for Peace-keeping in Africa; Jean Ping, President of the African Union Commission and Pier Carlo Padoan, Vice Secretary-General of the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development.
Meanwhile, a new report recently launched by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union Commission has also called for a big push on agriculture to promote economic development in Africa.
The report says the global economic crisis and predicted long-term recession will hit African economies hard, noting that economists say the financial crisis already has resulted in lower demand for Africa's exports and a sharp decline in commodity prices.
The report noted that while all major industrialised countries have come up with economic stimulus bills, pumping billions of dollars into their economies to shore up struggling firms and boost demand for goods and services, this was not a possibility in Africa.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa Senior Economist Halima Noor Abdi said African countries do not have the resources to support their economies.
"The implications for Africa are actually very clear. When the recession started or the global financial crisis started, people thought because Africa was not integrated into the world financial markets, it would not be impacted. But, it has been discovered now that the financial crisis turned into an economic crisis, which actually is impacting on Africa in a number of ways. Our share of world trade is going to go down," Noor Abdi said.
The report calls for special attention to agriculture as a way of promoting economic development, with the authors saying that as agricultural production grows, the other sectors also will benefit from higher employment and greater income.
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