AU urges Africa to deepen economic integration to eradicate poverty
African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Monday called on Africa to deepen economic integration in order to eradicate widespread hunger and poverty on the continent.
Dlamini-Zuma made the call at the opening of the 24th Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council.
“We are today more convinced than ever, that we shall not succeed in eradicating poverty, disease, conflict and hunger and provide a better life for the peoples of our continent unless we have greater integration of our economies,” the AU Commission chairperson said.
She said mineral beneficiation, increased industrialization and agricultural production were also key to accelerating development on the continent.
With the upcoming 22nd Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly running under the central theme, “Agriculture and Food Security”, Dhlamini-Zuma said agriculture and agro-processing were critical to ensuring sustained and inclusive growth of 7 percent and higher in Africa.
The continent, she said, would in 2014 focus more on increasing agricultural investment and productivity; growing agro-business and value chains; expanding infrastructure; skills; and research for agriculture in pursuit of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) goals.
Agriculture constitutes a large part of Africa’s gross domestic product.
Dlamini-Zuma said Africa should also take practical steps to ensure it has a greater say on the pricing of its agricultural products.
“In particular, we will take special measures to ensure that women, who are the largest part of the agricultural work force and food producers, have access to training and capital, and are supported to form cooperatives,” she said.
The chairperson of the Executive Council, who is also Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the same meeting that Africa needed to sustain its high economic growth trajectory over the coming decades in order to lift millions of its people out of poverty.
“That is why we need to bring about structural transformation by promoting economic diversification and industrialization with a view to ensuring inclusive growth and creating jobs for the unemployed,” he said.
Addressing the same meeting, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Carlos Lopes lamented the fact that despite holding immense natural resources, Africa was the world’s most food insecure region.
Around 226 million people, or one out of every five people in Africa, were chronically food insecure, he said.
He bemoaned Africa’s inadequate funding to agriculture, saying the continent was yet to use the sector as a socio-economic transformation tool.
He pointed out that over 15 billion U.S. dollars had been spent on Africa’s agriculture over the past two decades and yet the continent was still grappling with the problem of malnutrition. Africa, he said, needed to undertake an agricultural revolution involving systematic improvements in production, processing, storage and use to take its people out of poverty, noting that countries that had succeeded in poverty alleviation had done so through agricultural revolutions.
He cited Brazil, China and India as examples.
Food security should be approached economically and not as a poverty reduction program, he urged Africa.
Lopes proposed the “6 R” strategy to transform Africa’s agriculture, focusing on reducing the vulnerability of small-scale farmers and remaining firm against unfair trade policies, among others.
He argued that agricultural subsidies offered by most developed countries distort international commodity prices thereby making farming by African farmers unprofitable.