It is undeniable that Agriculture is key to Africa’s future. In fact, Africa is not only the breadbasket for itself, but also feeds Europe and the middle east. For staters, from a sheer land size point of view, the African continent, being the second largest on the planet, boasts about 30.3 million sqm (km2) of land. According to the World bank, roughly 11.2 million sqm constituted agricultural land.[efn_note]Agricultural land refers to the share of land area that is arable, under permanent crops, and under permanent pastures. Arable land includes land defined by the FAO as land under temporary crops (double-cropped areas are counted once), temporary meadows for mowing or for pasture, land under market or kitchen gardens, and land temporarily fallow. Land abandoned as a result of shifting cultivation is excluded. Land under permanent crops is land cultivated with crops that occupy the land for long periods and need not be replanted after each harvest, such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber. This category includes land under flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines, but excludes land under trees grown for wood or timber. Permanent pasture is land used for five or more years for forage, including natural and cultivated crops.[/efn_note]

Naturally not all of that is suitable for farming. What we do know however is that there is a gross under-utilisation of the land on the continent. Furthermore there is a great inefficiency regarding land currently used for farming. Much of the farming that does take place is not commercial but subsistence. As an average across the continent, only 0,54% of all agricultural land is irrigated.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in 2016, which is the latest available year, the African continent produced 2.157 billion USD worth of products in agricultural goods using only just over 30% of the continent’s land. Even if, for argument’s sake, we:

  1. exclude the entire Sahara desert, which occupies around one third (or 9.2 sqm) of the continent, from consideration; and
  2. allow for the fact that 2% of the continent is urban;[efn_note]This is a generous overestimation as it assumes a doubling of Africa’s urban areas since 2010. World Bank statistics recorded 223,675.06 sqm in 2010)[/efn_note]; and
  3. exclude area taken up by bodies of water and these cover another 3% of the land area.[efn_note]Another generous overestimation[/efn_note].

Even with all the above excluded in our calculations, we would still have just under 9 million sqm of land left.[efn_note]According to definitions and survey recommendations by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), used by for example Eurostat and the World Bank, arable land is agricultural land occupied by crops both sown and harvested during the same agricultural year, sometimes more than once.[/efn_note] This is a simple exercise and is not entirely just as there are mountainous areas, forested areas (approx. 27% of total land), etc where agriculture may also not be possible. The point being made here is that there is plenty more to be done on the continent in the agribusiness space.

Half the continent’s population is employed in the agricultural sector and there is still a lot of opportunity. As with all other sectors of production, we need to encourage not just the farming, but also the beneficiation of produce grown on the continent. As an organisation, we wish to help farmers get the most out of their land by increasing their yield and see more afropreneurs move into adding value.

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