Africa to blame for failing to invest in agricultural value addition, Kagame tells forum

Saturday September 8 2018


Man inspects his farm in Rwanda's Eastern Province. Farmers took loans to buy seeds and fertilisers. PHOTO | FILE 

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President Paul Kagame has squarely blamed Africa’s focus on exportation of raw materials instead of adding significant value to its agricultural, as the main reason why the continent fails to uplift its farmers.

Kagame was speaking Saturday at a Presidential Summit on Agriculture in Kigali, where he was joined by President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo, Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, Prime Minister of Gabon Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

“How can we blame anybody else for some of these shortcomings, how can we blame anybody else for Rwanda importing coffee from Europe when we produce coffee but we don’t process it,” Kagame said.

“UK, Germany, France, you don’t grow coffee; you don’t grow tea. Why do we have to grow our coffee and tea and transport it to Europe, you give it some blessing, and send it back to us and we pay tenfold? It doesn’t make sense and we all know it. We have been shipping value to the other end for free and we pay heavily.”

His remarks were backed by a recently launched report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which shows that although over half of the population in Africa is involved in agriculture, the sector remains backward, heavily relying on subsistence production from small-holder farmers..

Kagame also spoke of previous discussions he has had with leaders from the continent’s biggest agricultural producers where he urged them to invest in value addition products to uplift their farmers.

“I was in a meeting with the vice president of Ivory Coast and I was saying, why don’t you produce chocolate for us and we eat chocolate directly from the Ivory Coast or from Ghana,” Kagame said.

“I asked him why we don’t look for investments; because technology will always be found – and we start processing and stop exporting cocoa beans. We can do this. What is the meaning of the CFTA if we do not do these things?”

The main task for us to make sure that we are aligned on (as Africa) is put into practice. We have talked so much about what best we know we can do to get us what we want to be through several conferences and meetings, but we still fall short on practice.

Kenya’s Vice president, William Ruto, noted his government is focusing on distributing quality fertilisers that are targeted for specific crops to avoid low quality production and leakages that constantly affect his country.

“We want to avoid leaking in agriculture, acidity, reduction in production because of the use of wrong fertilisers. We have mapped the soil of the whole country so that farmers can get fertilisers that are crop specific for specific regions. The aim here s to increase produce by farmers, reduce post harvest losses, increase value addition and enhance income of farmers,” he said.

According to AGRA, Ethiopia has the largest share of total agricultural value-added percentage (2003–2010) among countries in the East Africa region followed by Sudan and Tanzania.

Ethiopia is also the only Sub-Saharan African country  that achieved high rates of agricultural growth over an extended period of time.