Powering Southern Africa’s Recovery: Focus on Agriculture
May 20, 2021
Southern Africa’s nations continue to confront the twin challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and low commodity prices. Foreign direct investment will be a key driver of the region’s Covid-19 recovery. In 2020, the U.N. estimated FDI inflows into Africa dropped by 18 percent amid a global economic slump brought on chiefly by the pandemic. But even before Covid-19, FDI inflows were declining. African policy makers and leading money managers must now think big. To attract FDI, the region needs to see bold reforms to open the FDI floodgates and power Africa’s recovery. We brought Southern Africa’s FDI stakeholders together to chart a way forward to increase direct investment to this region.
In this roundtable, with the Angolan example in mind, we examined the opportunities and challenges within the agriculture sector of the countries that make up Southern Africa. We addressed how these countries might improve production and supply chains for mainline agricultural products and the reforms and infrastructure needed in order to attract investment into the agriculture sector.
- Vanessa Adams, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships & Chief of Party, AGRA
- Onyeka Akumah, Founder & CEO, Farmcrowdy Limited
- Dr. João Manuel Bartolomeu da Cunha, Secretary of State for Agriculture & Livestock of Angola
- Samuel Dzotefe, Regional Manager – Agribusiness and Forestry, Sub-Saharan Africa, IFC
- Afshin Ghassmi, Investment Manager, CDC Group
- Michael Hoelter, Senior Principal Investments & Team Lead Sustainable Investments, DWS
- Chris Isaac, Chief Investment Officer, AgDevCo
- Giselle Alejandra LLanes, Founder, Hectarea Uno H1+
- Antonio de Silva, Chairman, Angolan Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency
Moderator: David Malingha, East Africa Bureau Chief, Bloomberg News
Click here to view the video of the full discussion.
Here’s what they had to say:
Vanessa Adams: Vice President, Strategic Partnerships & Chief of Party, AGRA, said that 2021 is a critical year for Africa for a few reasons, but chief among them is the recovery from Covid because it continues to cause delays in investment and disruption in supply chains. “It is still with us and we are expecting a fourth wave in some countries and this is affecting the mindset of investors.” The key question, Adams said, is how quickly can we move on mechanization, sustainable irrigation, technology and other top priorities?
Onyeka Akumah: Founder & CEO, Farmcrowdy Limited, stressed the importance of the younger generation and the deployment of technology in agriculture across Angola and Africa more broadly. “We want to get young people excited about the sector of agriculture”, he said. Akumah cited the use of technology as one way to do this while also improving productivity; he mentioned the use of drones to fertilize farms as an example of this. “Farmers are business men and women, if you show them how to make money they will accept the technology”, he said.
Dr. João Manuel Bartolomeu da Cunha: Secretary of State for Agriculture and Livestock of Angola, said that Angola has huge potential to grow a variety of value chains. “For the next 3 years we have very well defined priorities – for example the cereal value chain production including maze and rice”. da Cunha also pinpointed the potential in the near future for Angola to produce soybeans, sweet potatoes, tropical fruits and a variety of livestock.
Samuel Dzotefe: Regional Manager, Agribusiness and Forestry, Sub-Saharan Africa, IFC, said that agriculture is critical for the development of the African continent. “The World Bank reported in 2018 that Africa’s agribusiness could create a 1 trillion dollar business by 2030. There’s a big opportunity to invest in the African agriculture sector; the critical question is how we attract investment from the private sector”, he said
Afshin Ghassmi, Investment Manager, CDC Group, put forward his view on key investment areas within agriculture in Africa. “Agriculture is a priority sector for CDC, we are investing in agriculture across Africa and have been for a number of years. We do that directly as well as through intermediaries. We’ve prioritized animal protein and feed as one key area, there’s also a huge opportunity in food processing given growing populations and rapid urbanization.” Ghassmi also stressed the importance of the role of government in creating an enabling environment for investors.
Michael Hoelter: Senior Principal Investments & Team Lead Sustainable Investments, DWS, observed a number of trends. One of them is the huge potential of the processing sector: “what holds true from our experience is that the level of processing across the continent is low and underutilized. Hoelter also said that the diversification of crops has potential to increase yield for farmers. “Demand In the food industry is changing, so if farmers diversify they will improve financial returns and sustainability of the farming sector in general.” He added that competency of farmers, entrepreneurs and staff is the hardest thing to achieve and that government bureaucracy needs to be predictable for investors as this is a key assessment when choosing where to invest.
Chris Isaac: Chief Investment Officer, AgDevCo, spoke about the state of play for businesses in the African agriculture sector. “First movers can really catalyze the development of new industries. The trouble is, capital tends to go to only a handful of established firms rather than the pioneers and especially not in agriculture because it’s hard to generate returns. Therefore we don’t see a lot of new companies in this space. The volumes of capital going to those parts of the market that need it the most is too small”, he concluded.
Giselle Alejandra LLanes: Founder, Hectarea Uno H1+, said that the best way to invest is to be present in your target market and get a sense of the particularities of that place. “It’s important to have access to statistical information to ensure correct decision making and know your target market”. LLanes went on to say that investors her company works with have the objective of diversifying their portfolios for the long-term.
António da Silva, Chairman, Angolan Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency, said that Angola is moving away from dependence on oil and looking to grow in other sectors such as agriculture. “Due to the existence of millions of hectares of land there’s a big opportunity there in agriculture investment.” da Silva said that agriculture jobs can also help with Angola’s unemployment rate.
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