Africa should set its sights on feeding the world – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa)

Sola David-Borha is the Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank. In this article, she shares her insights on opportunities in the Agriculture industry.

Motherland Moguls, you don’t want to miss out on this one.


Africa needs to make more food

With the world population expected to swell by 2 billion people over the next three decades, Africa has an opportunity to step up and become a major global food production hub.

For the time being, Africa remains a net importer of food, despite its vast tracts of underutilized land and other enviable natural resources. Its reliance on food imports weighs on the continent’s current account and spells a missed economic opportunity.

Source: Unctad, Rabobank
With the right policies, technologies, and infrastructure in place, Africa has the potential to first meet its own food requirements, and then exceed them – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa) Click To Tweet

The agricultural sector is possibly the continent’s biggest growth lever, with a sizeable potential for much-needed job creation. This is especially poignant considering that Africa is estimated to hold about 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Of the land that is cultivated, yields remain extremely low and irrigation techniques dated.

Agribusiness is the next big hustle

The adoption of modern and innovative farming practices could spur a step-change in the output of existing and new farmlands. The Netherlands, a country that is roughly 3.4% the size of South Africa by land area, provides a good example – being the world’s second-largest exporter of food by value, despite its size, thanks to high yields.

Meanwhile, Brazil shows that it is possible for an emerging market to shift from a net importer of food to a net exporter. The South American country did so through trade liberalization and investments in agricultural research, among other initiatives.

Africa is still only scratching the surface of its potential in the agribusiness game – Sola David-Borha, CEO Standard Bank Group (Africa) Click To Tweet

To shift the industry onto a new trajectory, a combined effort between policymakers, financial services firms and the industry itself will be needed.

What you should be thinking about

Financial services should consider how they can facilitate the sector’s growth by providing sustainable finance solutions across the agriculture value chain.

Investments in areas such as logistics, renewable energy, warehousing, and other storage facilities, agro-processing plants, and irrigation technologies will be crucial, as will public investments in road and rail infrastructure as well as ports.

Access to markets is also an important focus area, and measures to tackle this issue will boost the entire agricultural value chain.

Policymakers can play their part by creating an enabling investment environment, as countries such as Kenya have done.

To align policies across the continent, governments should consider existing frameworks. Regulations should be aimed at striking a balance between economic growth and safeguarding Africa’s natural environment.

Encouragingly, the imminent implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will lower tariffs and promote intra-African trade in agriculture, making the continent less reliant on food imports from other regions. And through cross-border initiatives, Africa could strengthen its food export prospects.

Standard Bank is funding African Agribusinesses

African states and farming groups would also do well to adopt ‘smart farming’ concepts. Standard Bank, for instance, in partnership with technology companies, has piloted projects that use drones to monitor the health of crops, and digital technologies to monitor and regulate soil moisture in order to save water by avoiding unnecessary irrigation.

Standard Bank is also working with development finance institutions and export agencies to develop sustainable finance solutions specifically for the sector. We are funding projects that allow small-scale farmers to transform themselves into contractors that supply commercial farmers.

An opportunity for African Women

Climate change poses a serious risk to Africa’s food security – and the world’s. The effects are already being felt – Tropical Cyclone Idai caused unprecedented damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi less than a year ago, while catastrophic droughts and flooding have affected South Africa and East Africa, among other regions. Currently, the devastating locust invasion in East Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia specifically – is threatening food security in the region.

Considering that agriculture already accounts for a large portion of Africa’s GDP, the impact of climate change on the economy can be severe.

Another risk is that the expansion of Africa’s agricultural sector will place more strain on the continent’s water resources, which need to be carefully managed. The adoption of advanced irrigation techniques is a good start.

Standard Bank recently partnered with the United Nations (UN) Women on a project aimed at developing climate-smart farming techniques amongst rural women. The initiative is being rolled out in Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, and Nigeria.

While the sector’s future is not without its risks, it may well be Africa’s biggest opportunity in the coming decades. Being a major contributor to GDP and employment, the agribusiness sector is the continent’s most effective lever for achieving inclusive growth.


About Standard Bank Group

Standard Bank Group is the largest African bank by assets with a unique footprint across 20 African countries. Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, we are listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with share code SBK, and the Namibian Stock Exchange, share code SNB.  

Standard Bank has a 156-year history in South Africa and started building a franchise outside southern Africa in the early 1990s. 

Our strategic position, which enables us to connect Africa to other select emerging markets as well as pools of capital in developed markets, and our balanced portfolio of businesses, provide significant opportunities for growth.  

The group has over 53 000 employees, approximately 1 200 branches and over 9 000 ATMs on the African continent, which enable it to deliver a complete range of services across personal and business banking, corporate and investment banking and wealth management.  

Headline earnings for 2018 were R27.9 billion (about USD2.1 billion) and total assets were R2.1 trillion (about USD148 billion). Standard Bank’s market capitalisation at 31 December 2018 was R289 billion (USD20 billion). 

The group’s largest shareholder is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world’s largest bank, with a 20,1% shareholding. In addition, Standard Bank Group and ICBC share a strategic partnership that facilitates trade and deal flow between Africa, China and select emerging markets. 

For further information, go to http://www.standardbank.com  


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Imagine Africa at the center of our plates: Preserving, profiting and healing our roots through food

 

What does food, nutrition, and gender equity have in common for Africa and its diaspora?

Together they have the ability to transform the future of Africa’s food system by empowering women and girls who represent the vital engine of the economy.

Africa and its diaspora have a key opportunity to address the double burden of nutrition from diabetes, heart disease to malnutrition by promoting the health and beauty of African foods from teff, millet, moringa, baobab and hibiscus which can unlock economic potential and grow an emerging consumer market with the right policy, resources, infrastructure, packaging and promotion in place.

The World Economic Forum projected double-digit growth of Africa’s economy over the next 50 years. Like Asia and Latin America, the food and agricultural sectors will follow these projected trends.

Currently, a rise in Western fast-food chains has proliferated across the Continent in the name of job creation. Furthermore, the World Health Organization(WHO) reports heart disease and diabetes will outpace killing Africans more than AIDS.

Without a proper health care infrastructure to combat NCD, the economic returns from job creation in the fast food system will have to pay for the health of Africa’s people.  

What shift can happen on the continent to ensure that public health and economic growth are not in conflict?

Academic researchers have documented the positive role of the African heritage diet; therefore economic opportunities are prime for investment in the indigenous foodways while preserving the heritage and supporting a climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive agricultural landscape.

In addition, scholarly works and visionary leadership matched with the public will can ensure that Africa is truly at the center of the plate for Africa and not just on the menu.

How have I come to this belief?

After attending the 2014 African Union Summit which has a theme on ‘food security,’ I was inspired and challenged with how to contribute to the AU Agenda 2063 to address youth opportunities.

Traversing across the continent, I had the esteemed pleasure to tour and speak to colleagues in the health care systems, nutrition systems, and academic institutions along with parents and students about diet and non-communicable diseases.

That’s why I created WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture, to inspire a new generation of women and girls to lead in improving the food system for healthier, sustainable economies and communities in Africa and the Diaspora.

And our children’s generational icon is Little WANDA, a new girl character from the Diaspora, who uses her superpower of African foods to heal her communities with the help of women farmers, food producers, and nutritionists which we call them Big WANDAs.

By visiting the local markets in Ghana, I enjoyed the sights, sounds and buying from the entrepreneurial women selling their farm-fresh produce and packaged goods while I also concerned how the big box grocery stores may displace these micro food enterprises if we don’t see their value in our local food economy and tourism industry.

How can we build a food system that ensures local food entrepreneurs have equitable footing while multinational corporations join the food supply chain?

And what about Africa’s youth?

While giving a nutrition workshop with at a primary school in Nigeria, I saw the eagerness of the students to learn nutrition education after reading “Where’s WANDA?” bilingual book series.

One parent shared how her daughter shared healthy tips to help her Nana prevent diabetes; in a nutshell, she wanted to become food ‘shero’ like Little WANDA in the “Where’s WANDA?” series to help their Nana who has diabetes.

Over the last few decades, fast food chains with subsidized corn syrup, refined wheat and salts have become mainstay fixtures in urban diasporan communities with little healthy food access known as a ‘foodapartheidd,’ the same effect may happen in urban centers across Africa without intervention.

Proper comprehensive nutrition-centered agriculture policy preserving local foodways combined with nutrition edutainment, standardized food labeling, and promotional campaigns are key to keep at bay the unintended consequences particularly in middle-income countries with non-communicable diseases like hypertension while lowering health care costs.

If the African American experience is the ‘canary in the mine’ for Africa, what early intervention and visionary leadership can change the direction of this path? 

In creating WANDA, it was clear that investing in women and girls will be fundamental for Africa’s future!

And men’s role as gate openers of opportunity is key to unlock the resources to build workforce and leadership and combat the historical nutrition inequities and the stigma in the food system.

For too long the world publicly shunned the nutritional value of Africa’s indigenous foodways while using Africa’s food and labor to build their economy. Training more women and youth in nutrition and agribusiness is critical in improving health and economic opportunities for all.

Decolonizing our diet is not only good for the economy but our local food ways.

And agriculture needs an image makeover to inspire a new generation of food leaders with characters like Little WANDA to set course on a proper pathway for a healthy and wealthy Africa.


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