Some African Development Bank (AfDB) experts have shared their perspectives on Africa’s structural transformation, which is the key topic of the Bank’s annual meetings here in Marrakech. Like many of them, Damian Onyema Ihedioha, Principal agro-industry specialist, believes that for Africa to be a player in the global economic and development domains, things must be done differently, i.e. there should be a paradigm shift.
The Bank’s Annual Meetings this year focuses on “Africa’s structural transformation”. How do you view Africa’s structural transformation?
In my view, there should be a paradigm shift that must not only be in governance and development patterns, but also in our attitudes. I believe that at the personal level, people must change attitudes and accept the transforming effect of change.
We must be prepared to accept new ways of doing things, accept a changing world and the dynamics associated with it. We can build institutions and super structures, and without inward transformation, no much can be achieved. There must be a renaissance at both operational and personal levels.
It is in the quest of fostering this transformation that the AfDB has developed its 10- Year Strategy (TYS) to champion this course, which I think resonate with the priorities of the Bank’s regional member countries (RMCs).
I am an ardent believer in the TYS as a platform for transforming Africa. Poverty is increasing and inequality between the rich and the poor is ever widening. In sum, these have not brought about an inclusive growth.
It is common knowledge that these growth rates are occasioned by development in the extractive industry. In moving forward therefore, the economies of African countries should be driven by sectors that impact more on people; and in which most of the population are involved.
The Bank’s 10-Year Strategy emphasizes investments in rural infrastructure to increase productivity. Kaberuka said there is need to revolutionize agriculture. What, according to you, should be done differently to revolutionize agriculture?
The Bank’s agriculture portfolio must emphasize on support and development of agro-industry as a platform to create jobs, ensure food security, increase incomes, diversify product consumption base, have stable final products of good shelf-life and engender the needed import substitution of imported food commodities in RMCs. This will in turn strengthen linkages between farmers and agro-industry to improve real incomes of farmers through assured markets for their farm produce, enhance supply-chain efficiencies and contribute to the reduction of physical losses and improve food availability.
These can be achieved through investments in agricultural infrastructure that reduce supply chain efficiencies; such as: Community access and feeder roads: The agricultural portfolio should continue to rehabilitate/construct community access and feeder roads to make movement of goods (especially high perishable farm produce) and services more convenient; reduced the cost of transportation drastically so that smallholder farmers can make more profit; repair and maintenance on vehicles; reduce abrasion and shocks on perishable farm produce being transported and make market access easier.
Investments in the infrastructure have access to public utilities such as schools, health centres, etc. a lot convenient.
Construction of rural markets: Construction of markets in catchment areas of production is critical so that produce are easily taken to the market and sold. The overall average market attendance would increase, there would be increased business activities in the markets and business opportunities would opened up for an otherwise unemployed rural poor. Increased trading means that farmers had more willing buyers for their produce than was previously possible; and this would have direct positive bearing on revenue collection by the local governments.
Setting up of cottage agro industry facilities: The Bank’s agriculture portfolios should continue to support the setting-up of agro-industry facilities as a platform to create jobs, ensure food security, increase incomes, diversify product consumption base, have stable final products of good shelf-life and engender the needed import substitution of imported food commodities.
This in turn will strengthen linkages between farmers and agro-industry in order to improve real incomes of farmers through assured markets for their farm produce, enhance supply-chain efficiencies and contribute to the reduction of physical losses and improve food availability.
How would you link Africa’s transformation and politics?
Development and transformation do not happen/occur by chance. They derive from a thought process that is futuristic, inclusive and visionary. That is to say that, Africa’s transformation cannot occur if the politics is wrong. We need enabling environment, policy reforms, investment direction and plans.
We need political leaders who dream dreams, who are development oriented and passionate about people’s welfare. Without politics that is stable, transformation of Africa will die on arrival.
I strongly believe we need to get the politics right for development to take root. We need to build strong institutions that will propel the transformation under effective and forward looking leadership.