Africa is on the move, with signs of progress and growing prosperity for millions of its people. The lives and livelihoods of millions of people are improving, and entire economies are growing at a brisk pace with many of the world’s fastest growing economies being in Africa.
However, over a quarter of its population – 333 million people – remain food insecure and one in three people in Africa – 422 million – still live in extreme poverty.
As the continent’s population is expected to surge from 1.2 billion today to a projected 4 billion in only 80 years’ time, we can assume that the number of individuals whose life chances will suffer will also increase. Research by the Tony Blair Institute for its Jobs Gap report found that, on the current trajectory, there will remain a shortfall of 40 million jobs and livelihoods in Africa by 2050.
Countries that have prioritized agriculture have recorded notable progress. For example, in Ethiopia, 25 years of steady growth in the farm sector has cut rural poverty rates in half and in Rwanda, poverty has reduced by 25% over the same period.
Agriculture is the surest path to inclusive economic growth and job creation and evidence from around the world attests to this. No region has built a modern economy without first strengthening its agricultural sector. Agricultural transformation was critical in Europe, Asia and the Americas, serving as the launch pad for their industrial and services revolutions. The continent of Africa needs to follow suit and move from food shortages to surpluses, boost beneficial continental trade, and create millions of employment opportunities, particularly for women and young people.
If we are to secure the Sustainable Development Goals every effort must be made to every effort must be made now to ensure there is a combination of technology, entrepreneurship, inclusive market systems and effective governance. This latter ingredient is arguably the most critical because achieving scaled impact requires a conducive enabling environment that only governments, backed by visionary leadership, can provide.
Mr. Blair has been committed to supporting effective governance since his time as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. On leaving office he set up an organization to support Africa’s visionary leaders to achieve their development agendas and deliver improvements to the wellbeing of their citizens.
In 2020 we will mark 12 years of effective governance support and it is a fitting time to join forces in a new partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to scale up our symbiotic, joint support to governments to drive their agriculture transformation agendas and achieve the goals of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.
In countries like Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique we now have a window of opportunity to support visionary leaders in this adaptive, smart way. Hence at the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) – Africa’s foremost agriculture convention – that took place in Accra, Ghana this year, Mr. Blair discussed the partnership and the themes the leadership of governments across Africa are asking for support in:
• centre of government ownership of the agriculture transformation agenda
• sector coordination and policy consistency, through politically smart adaptive management
• delivery of flagships and priorities
• scaling up agri-investment and trade
• private-sector dialogue
• government capacity strengthening
• digitalisation and technology
• enhancing decentralisation
The Tony Blair Institute and AGRA view this partnership launch as just the start and welcome the support of other partners. This could assist in the extending the partnership to cover these areas as well as extending the support to other key countries such as Nigeria and Burkina Faso. A synchronised approach by development partners to support state capability is essential.
Tony Blair said: “Twelve years ago I launched an initiative to provide visionary leaders in Africa with smart and adaptive support working to their development agenda. Today I am delighted to apply this successful model in partnership with AGRA to help achieve agriculture transformation and food security in Africa.”
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA President, said “I am delighted to strengthen our partnership with the Tony Blair Institute as we support governments in achieving agricultural transformation in Africa. This partnership, with others, can tackle the structural and policy constraints on our path to achieving agricultural transformation.”
The lessons of history are clear: where visionary leaders stepped up and delivered real change, agricultural and economic revolutions followed. Now is the time to back such leaders across the continent and address Africa’s food insecurity, malnutrition and large-scale poverty once and for all.