With the reality that Africa will increase its food imports bill from $35 billion to $110 billion by 2025, improving agriculture, building an agri-business sector, and upgrading the overall sector are keys to alleviating poverty, creating new sources of wealth, and maximizing the value of African natural resources.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, food production must double by 2050 in order to feed the global population. These realities make Morocco’s links to African countries even more strategic and significant, as investments in the expansion of phosphate rock mines and processing facilities are expected to double by 2020. Currently, Morocco, including the Sahara, has more than 70% of the world’s phosphate reserves; it is the number two producer worldwide, and the number one exporter globally.
As a recent article on the future of agriculture in Africa noted, “The wealth creation potential of the agriculture sector can become a reality in Africa if we look beyond just growing crops and rearing animals for food, to applying technology and adding value to harvested products.”
The future of African agriculture is a key theme of the Borlaug Dialogue, an international symposium organized by the World Food Prize Foundation held annually in Des Moines, Iowa. The theme this year is “The Road out of Poverty,” highlighting the food insecurity challenges on the continent. African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina, a winner of the World Food Prize, noted in his remarks that “For Africa to be food-secure, the agriculture sector should not only focus on solving hunger problems; it needs to focus also on solving economic problems. African agriculture has the potential to generate wealth and improve the lives of an estimated 767 million people living in extreme poverty on the continent — and lift them out of poverty.”
Morocco has been working to change this on parallel tracks – tailoring fertilizer production to growing conditions and specific crops for its customers and signing bilateral agreements with African countries to enhance technical cooperation and distribution of fertilizers to small farmers.
Another article in Ecofin Hebdo, noted, ”For Morocco, the aim is not only to affirm the desire for pan-African integration but also to promote and strengthen agricultural cooperation with African countries. The many regional tours conducted by the Moroccan king reflect this active diplomatic involvement of the Kingdom. In 2013, Mohamed VI traveled to Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon; in 2014 in Mali, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire; in 2015, in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea Bissau; in 2016, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and, in 2017, Ghana, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire.” Notable outcomes of these trips include an array of agreements to build local fertilizer facilities, strengthen agricultural co-ops, collaborate on formulating fertilizers for local use, and improve marketing strategies.
The growth in these bilateral cooperative ventures coincides with expanded efforts on the continent to create more jobs in the agricultural sector. The article points out that “Almost every country in Africa is turning to the agriculture sector to help create more jobs for unskilled laborers. Most countries have realized that agriculture has the potential to meet the needs of the more than 41 percent of illiterate African adults and rural poor across the continent.”
To be effective and sustainable, growing the agricultural sector requires significantly more than seed and fertilizer. It needs value chains for all types of farming, processing, marketing, and distribution of food products, not just for export but for feeding Africa itself.
The article points out that “To boost the output of the agriculture sector and improve its profitability — as well as prepare for the future challenge of feeding a much larger population — there is a need to expand domestic food production, increase the standard of finished products, and raise the appeal of locally-processed foods for urban dwellers,” through better quality, packaging, and acceptable pricing.
Morocco has been moving from a commodity exporter to higher value finished items tailored to consumer markets, and it is utilizing lessons learned in its technical assistance programs in Africa. This includes improving connectivity between rural and urban areas by means of better access, as well as expanding technology to support rural areas with more efficient water management, crop harvesting, and cost information, not to mention solar- and wind-powered machinery. Training is also offered in cooperative management, use of micro-financing and accessing bank financing, and in creating a helpful regulatory environment and other government policies.
Through these activities, which have variable time frames, Morocco is generating sustainable projects that are a win-win proposition for both parties, and broaden the base of shared interests throughout the continent.