With the global spread of the COVID-19, and gradual lockdowns in cities and countries across Africa, I have new fears – that starvation and hunger are mounting threats for people across continent. These fears are hinged on the realization that it is planting season in most parts of the Continent, and yet farmers are being asked to sit at home, the movement of seasonal workers is restricted, research institutes that provide seeds, fertilizer blending companies and agrodealers, processors and markets are all being shut down. Our regional and national borders are closed, and trading is being restricted. These realities, if pro-longed and not urgently addressed, will lead to short term consequences of food shortages, price hikes, and medium to long term consequences of under-nutrition, mass starvation and eventually death, especially among our most vulnerable populations.
We have to act with urgency to stem the virus through social distancing and lock downs. At the same time, we must recognize that farmers and workers in the food industry are essential to the fight against the pandemicand desperately need to be protected and supported. Indeed, without nutritious food, the sick cannot recover, and the healthy will eventually become unwell.
My fears are shared by a few stakeholders on the Continent and around the world. The EU Farmer’s organization – COPA-COGECAearlier this week actively advocated for support to ensure minimal disruptions to the food supply chain, worker protection and contingency plans. The United Kingdom and the United States have already outlined comprehensive plans to provide intervention grants, loans, and tax holidays, for stakeholders in the food industry, including restaurant owners and retailers affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic. In Mexico, farmers who continue to plough their fields are being celebrated as heroes.
Sadly, there has been no coordinated action from industry groups, the private sector, civil society, or the public sector to raise awareness about the looming food crises on the African Continent, linked to COVID-19.
Thankfully, it is not too late to act! We must take decisive and proactive steps to ensure that our people have access to affordable nutritious food in both our urban and rural communities. This will require that;
- Our governments at the federal, state, and local levels recognize key stakeholders in the food and agricultural landscape as essential workers and provide them with the protection and support that they need to continue to work, following pre-stipulated safety and health protocols. We must keep food markets and factories open, with clear guidelines around limiting crowds, and widely publicized schedules for who can enter during what periods of time. We can also learn from China’s example over the last few months, where government officials, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and National Health Commission repeatedly issued comprehensive notes to farmers on the control and prevention of the virus in rural areas, as well recommendations and protocols for preparing for their planting season and sustaining the livestock and poultry sectors.
Beyond guidance and protocols, our governments must urgently partner with the financial services sector to develop comprehensive loan packages for farmers, and entrepreneurs who are committed to working during the crises and can demonstrate their capacity to fill critical gaps in the food ecosystem. These interventions must actively engage women, who play a critical role in the sector. In addition, our governments must assess thenational strategic and emergency grain reserves to gauge what is available and how to effectively manage and deploy these reserves in a transparent and accountable manner to minimize price hikes and widespread shortages.
- Our industry associations, fast moving consumer goods companies, international trading companies, aggregators, wholesalers, and retailers must work together seamlessly to ensure the efficient and effective provision of affordable food to the masses of people. Leveraging technology, raw material suppliers and processors can actively partner with logisticsproviders and retailers to ensure that food is moved to where it is needed most, and no community is left behind.
This is not a period for hoarding and price gouging, with a focus on profits and growth at all costs. Companies must rise to the higher ideal of shared corporate values, where they put the needs of their customers and the African people ahead of their own requirements for profits and shareholder value. To ensure that this occurs, consumer protection and anti-competition agencies must closely monitor the activities of the largest actors in the food industry to ensure a level playing field.
In addition, the private sector can facilitate the introduction ofdrones, sensors and other precision agriculture andinnovative technology solutions, which will allow for active monitoring of commercial farm activity from a distance. Companies such as Atlas AI have demonstrated the power of technology to manage farms and assess impact, without direct human contact.
Our nonprofit organizations and media organizations must provide thought-leadership, monitoring and guidance to the entire ecosystem. Organizations such as GAIN are already providing critical guidance during this period.
- Finally, average citizens must invest in their own backyard and community gardens, while ensuring social distancing, manage their food budgets judiciously and share with their neighbors. Faith based organizations must open soup kitchens, offering free meals and partner with logistics providers to coordinate drop-offs. We must rebuild trust in our communities by caring for the most vulnerable at this exceedingly challenging time in our history as humanity!
As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful that as a people we will survive the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging with some critical lessons and a more resilient, united,and efficient food ecosystem. Now is the time for governments, stakeholders in the food ecosystem and citizens to act! Every minute counts!
Article By: Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is the managing partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition and the Co-Founder of AACE Foods. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow and is currently writing a book titled “African Entrepreneurs Nourishing the World,” as a research fellow at the MR-CBG at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Visit: Sahel Consult
British International Investment drives new investment to expand Nigeria’s agricultural sector
British International Investment (BII), the UK’s development finance institution (DFI) and impact investor, today announced it has signed legally binding documents to invest US$15m in equity into a Singapore-headquartered agricultural commodities trading house, Valency International (Valency), to fund their expansion of processing and warehouse infrastructure in Nigeria. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in early 2024.
In addition to its commitment of $15m, BII has an option to invest a further $35m in equity into Valency within two years of completion of its initial investment. Agriculture is a key contributor to Nigeria’s economy, accounting for a quarter of total gross domestic product, and employs more than one in three Nigerians. Crop production is the largest segment within agriculture and it accounts for about 87.6 per cent of the sector’s total output. However, food processing and manufacturing remains underdeveloped in the local agricultural sector.
The new Valency facilities, funded by BII will strengthen partnerships with local farmers and processing centres to maximise their output and provide a more stable supply of premium-quality products. The projects are expected to reach at least an extra 60,000 farmers and create up to 2,800 jobs among low-income communities in Nigeria.
British International Investment, as the first institutional investor in Valency, will provide value-added support to the company in developing best practices in business integrity and Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS). Both parties will work closely to improve job quality and gender inclusion and enhance value creation.
Jonny Baxter, UK Deputy High Commissioner said: “The UK’s sustainable agriculture work in Nigeria helps to not only mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate, but strengthens livelihoods and improves nutrition, supporting food security and poverty alleviation.
“I am excited to welcome this new UK investment to help enhance Nigeria’s food processing capabilities, which will create jobs across the nation. We look forward to continuing to support Nigeria’s agriculture sector and the opportunities this provides for its economic growth.”
Benson Adenuga, Head of Office and Coverage Director, Nigeria for BII said: “The strategic opportunity to catalyse growth in Nigeria’s food and agricultural sector should be seized and offers the chance to leverage its immense food export potential. We are proud to deepen our commitment to food security and smallholder farmers in Nigeria while creating jobs that enable industrialisation and facilitate regional and international trade.
“We are delighted to partner with Valency, and we look forward to the significant impact and economic development that our catalytic capital will support.”
Speaking on the signing, Mr. Sumit Jain, CEO of Valency International commented: “We have been careful and deliberate in our choice of partners for the next phase of our growth. While we have been approached by a variety of investor groups, we chose to partner with BII as we have been impressed by BII’s engagement to the regions where we have committed to invest substantially over the medium term. Equally we are privileged that BII has chosen Valency to drive its impact agenda in Nigeria in the growing food and agriculture sector.”
Roman Frenkel, Head of Food and Agriculture at BII will join the Board of Valency as part of the transaction. BII’s commitment contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 on Decent work and economic growth.
The African Cashew Alliance Re-Echoed the Need for a Revitalized Vision
R-L- Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, Honorable Minister, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Bababtola Fasheru, President African Cashew Alliance (ACA), Mr Ernest Mintah, Managing Director ACA presenting the Analysis of the Nigerian Cashew Sector (Photo: Supplied)
The African Cashew Alliance (ACA) revitalized their vision for the African Cashew Industry as it held the much-anticipated 16th ACA Annual Cashew Conference from the 12th to the 15th of September 2022 at the Sheraton Abuja Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria. The well-attended conference attracted various stakeholders and cashew experts in the African Cashew Industry with the theme; “Strengthening Sustainable Kernel and By-Product Marketing in The African Cashew Industry”. It was the first physical gathering after the outbreak of COVID-19 and the first held in Nigeria since its inception. The African Cashew Alliance (ACA) is a business association of actors and stakeholders in the cashew industry in Africa and beyond. Established in 2006, the ACA is devoted to promoting a globally competitive African cashew industry that benefits all actors in the cashew value chain, from the farmer to the consumer, through value addition.
The annual conference is a major part of the ACA’s obligation to keep the industry vibrant, responsive to the issues on the ground, and committed to the interests of all stakeholders. The outcome of the conference further buttressed the alliance’s mission: to create a platform for accelerating growth and investment in the African cashew industry through partnerships, advocacy, market linkages, technical support, and global networking.
The conference had a rich series of learning and knowledge-sharing sessions, exhibitions, workshops, field visits, meetings, master classes, forums, digital initiatives, and provided opportunities to form strategic partnerships among the participants, speakers, and seasoned cashew experts that addressed relevant issues and offered solutions to the challenges of individual industry players, institutions, the participating countries’ respective national sectors, and the global industry.
The 2022 ACA Conference highlighted the vital role of marketing in building a sustainable African cashew industry. The event helped to sensitize participants on kernel and by-product marketing and other important related industry issues, including high production yields, kernel and by-product processing and policy.
According to the president of ACA and MD/CEO of Colossus Investments Limited, Mr. Babatola Faseru, “the cashew industry provides direct and indirect jobs to over 3 million people in Africa, especially women, serving as the main source of income for over 1.8 million households in West Africa. Therefore, to ensure sustainability, we need to address the question of how important supply chain linkages are from processors worldwide to growers of cashews. We need to harmonize strategic measures for the management of Kernel and by-products marketing, and we need to address the issue of infrastructure to sustain the growth in the local industry, in order to compete globally.”
He also emphasized the role of technology in this pursuit, adopting the best technology for shell and apple processing is critical. He pointed out the need for diversification of shell processing; knowing that shell is the biggest waste and major concern in cashew processing.
In his closing remarks, he acknowledged the great work being done through ACA despite the challenges;
“We are proud that through our annual conference and many other learning events and services, we are creating the right platforms and conditions for partnerships, advocacy, market linkages, global networking and providing the needed technical support for accelerating growth and investments in the African cashew industry.”
Among the special guests of honour, keynote speakers, speakers, panelists, moderators, stakeholders, and participants that attended the event were; His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Cashew Ambassador; Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (CON), Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Amb. Mariam Yalwaji Katagum, Hon. Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Babatola Faseru, ACA Board President; Ojo Ajanakou, President of National Cashew Association of Nigeria. Also, present was the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Cameroon and President of the Consultative International Cashew Council Mr. Gabriel Mbairobe. There was a rich and exhaustive list of distinguished speakers from across the globe in attendance, who did justice to the conference topic and sessions held.
As a result of the quality of the event, it attracted exhibitors comprising industry leaders, key stakeholders, established businesses, as well as SMEs that gladly exhibited their products, services, and brands to the local and internal audience at the conference. This was another major highlight of the conference and they enjoyed engagement from the participants and robust media coverage from the mainstream houses, including TV, radio, print and digital, who were in full attendance.
The event also had support and sponsorship from industry leaders, stakeholders, SMES, and established brands in the value chain. The President of the ACA Board of Directors, Mr. Babatola Faseru, expressed the Board’s gratitude to partners, sponsors, and the hundreds of physical and online participants of the Conference.
As part of the post-event activities to continue to engage the various stakeholders outside of the conference, the president of the African Cashew Alliance (ACA) Mr. Babatola Faseru, with the team paid a visit to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Abuja and shared the progress of the association with the minister, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (CON). The president recounted the challenges in the cashew industry in Nigeria, and how the association have greatly helped to provide solutions to them. The president also presented the various physical and online assets of the alliance like the report, the strategic documents stating the plans of the alliance and the online platform where stakeholders in the industry will continue to engage in productive conversations that will move the Cashew industry forward.
In response to the president of the African Cashew Alliance, the minister for Industry, Trade and Investment acknowledged the work being done by the association to promote the production of cashew in the country. He noted that most of the progress has been documented and the ministry has it in a good report. He affirmed the progress made in export as one of the achievements of the association; Nigeria is currently second in the world after Vietnam when it comes to cashew export. He also acknowledged some of the challenges the association has surmounted and shared the excitement of a bright future for the cashew industry. He further assured the ministry’s support for the association. He ended by thanking the association and looked forward to collaborations between the ministry and ACA.
The association promised to continue to engage all the stakeholders across sectors including government and policymakers to ensure the goals of promoting the cashew industry in Nigeria and Africa remain a priority.
The annual conference provided an opportunity for networking sessions where participants were able to meet, network, and explore business opportunities and collaboration. The participants affirmed the quality of the conference and looked forward to next year’s conference, which promises to be bigger and better.
Madagascar receives US$797,049 million drought recovery insurance payout
African Risk Capacity Group and the African Development Bank presented a symbolic US$797,049 cheque to the Government of Madagascar following delayed rains during the 2021-2022 agricultural season, which resulted in drought conditions across the country, particularly in the Grand South. The ARC payout is the result of drought insurance taken by the country under the African Development Bank’s flagship programme ADRiFi, which financed 50% of the 2021/2022 insurance premium for sovereign drought risk transfer for the Republic of Madagascar.
This payout will be specifically used to strengthen the resilience of part of the approximately 1,024,523 people affected by drought, according to the estimate of the Africa RiskView software, a tool used by ARC to estimate the number of people affected by disaster events and the associated response costs.
“I would like to thank the African Risk Capacity Group, the African Development Bank, the German government, as well as multi-donor partners such as Switzerland and the United Kingdom, who provided premium support to the Government of Madagascar to enable insurance uptake. Your support to ARC and to countries across the continent is crucial to enable us to sustain membership in this vital insurance mechanism,” said Mr Tahina Razafindramalo, Minister of Digital Development, Digital Transformation, Posts, and Telecommunications.
In his remarks, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director General of the ARC Group, Ibrahima Cheikh Diong said: “The payout made today not only supports vulnerable communities affected by drought, but also reaffirms the Government of Madagascar’s commitment to protecting its people against climate-induced shocks by actively participating in the ARC’s insurance mechanism.”
“Madagascar is, unfortunately, one of the African countries hardest hit by the impact of climate change. However, the government’s foresight to take out drought insurance meant that we were able to work together to develop a pre-emptive contingency plan, detailing how the payout would be used. The swift release of funds means the most-affected communities can now be assisted as a matter of urgency,” said Lesley Ndlovu, CEO of ARC Limited, the insurance affiliate of the ARC Agency.
In establishing a framework for collaboration, ARC and the African Development Bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2017 to support African states to manage disaster risks and to be better prepared to effectively respond to climate-related perils that seriously affect the continent. It is within this framework that the Bank provided financial support to the Government of Madagascar for the payment of its insurance premium over a period of 5 years (2019-2023) through the ADRiFi programme.
“This is the third insurance payout via the African Disaster Risk Financing Programme and ARC to the Government of Madagascar. The combined total of more than $13.5 million to boost the government’s ability to provide services that are keeping thousands of vulnerable people from food insecurity or migrating in search of food and work, demonstrates the Bank’s sustained commitment to building African nations’ resilience to climate change,” said Dr Beth Dunford, African Development Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.