Our agriculture also needs entrepreneurs
Agriculture plays a key role in sustainable development and poverty reduction and it can consolidate as a powerful mean to achieving inclusive growth. In Africa, the sector is an integral part of the economy and the daily lives of the majority of its inhabitants, representing more than 60% of jobs across the continent.
Agriculture thus has a tremendous potential as a catalyst for growth and as a source of employment opportunities for the population, especially for young people. A potential that is expected to grow in the coming years with the continuous transformation of food systems and the increase in food demand.
However, despite its central role, the agricultural sector accounts for only a quarter of regional GDP. The main reason is its low productivity and the considerable underdevelopment of private sector’s infrastructure. Low productivity not only makes African agriculture a non-competitive sector at the international level; it also generates a high human and economic cost. High poverty rates still prevail and more than 232 million people go to bed hungry every night due to low food production (among other factors).
The agricultural sector in Mozambique
In Mozambique, agriculture is the most important economic activity as well, since it guarantees the subsistence of 80% of the population and the quality of arable land is exceptional. However, only a small part of this land is currently used for this purpose.
On the other hand, the type of agriculture practiced in much of the country poses a threat to environmental sustainability due to the factors of production used. Despite the Government’s efforts to focus on projects such as the green revolution, we are still a long way from the sustainable development goals in the national agricultural sector.
The major challenge is to focus on production and transformation factors through policy reforms and the definition of appropriate strategies and investment models for the sector. This would allows us to achieve significant levels of development and ensure sustainable economic growth.
The importance of agricultural entrepreneurship
As noted earlier, a large number of African farmers do not currently have access to the necessary technologies (improved seeds, fertilizers) and enhanced agricultural practices to achieve acceptable and competitive levels of productivity. Fortunately, many entrepreneurs, including business and technology initiatives founders, have already begun to creatively and innovatively address some of these challenges.
Connected technologies and data-driven solutions are being designed to improve productivity and protect crops from pests, wild animals and climatic variations, for example. This new data-based approach signals that agriculture can no longer be reduced to heavy machinery or the intuition of farmers.
By early 2018, there were already 82 agritech start-ups operating throughout Africa, showing a 110% increase in the last two years. In 2017 alone, these ventures raised US$ 13.2 million in financing, a 121% increase over 2016.
The task is enormous and we need more of this kind of initiatives to meet our challenges. Entrepreneurs, with the knowledge and the capacity to start new business, will be at the heart of creating the innovative and transformative responses we need.
Supporting the sector in Mozambique
Agricultural entrepreneurship will be one of the keys to success for the metamorphosis of subsistence agriculture into industrial and competitive agriculture. In order to achieve this goal we must create the necessary conditions. This is a journey that begun in our country a short time ago and that already shows some positive results.
Firstly, it is noteworthy to highlight the project for the treatment and sale of dehydrated fruit led by Dirce Abdala. This enterprise was awarded the main prize at the MOZEFO Young Leaders Business Challenge, an initiative of the Soico Foundation – FUNDASO that seeks to connect technology-based start-ups led by young people and promote innovation projects rooted in the Mozambican context. Publicly recognizing good business practices and encouraging excellence is a key stake in promoting the development of innovative companies in the sector.
On the other hand, MOZGROW was created to play a preponderant role in strengthening and modernization Mozambique’s agriculture sector and business fabric. As an agribusiness platform that brings together all the stakeholders of the productive, industrial and commercial chain, from land to table, MOZGROW aims to disseminate the investments potentials and opportunities in the agribusiness sector, believing in the economic potential of this activity and the transformative capacity of productive dialogue between all the actors involved.
Agriculture is by far one of the most inclusive sectors of our continent, offering a huge potential for sustainable and scalable socio-economic transformation. Better and more investment will result not only in increased agricultural productivity but also in reduced poverty and improved food security. Generating the necessary conditions for the sector to be attractive to new entrepreneurs, especially young people, is the path we must follow.