What is Happening in Africa in the 1990s?
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I think we are concerned about Africa because the performance of the economies generally, and agriculture specifically, is declining not only compared with other developing regions but also compared with the past. And, of course, it is declining compared with the developed economies. Two decades ago it was probably better. I would like to go through some factors relating to stability or instability. It was mentioned that there is instability caused by a narrowly based economy % instability caused by emphasis on a few enterprises. But I would also talk about instability that is arising from population growth and migration. I don’t have much experience with the West African scene; I shall therefore speak basically in reference to eastern Africa, specifically Kenya. Let me first address instability arising from production. We all know that agricultural production in Africa is confined mainly to food crops such as maize, millet, sorghum, and root crops. That restriction causes considerable problems especially because of the drought factor. Low crop productivity caused by farmers’ inability to use biological and chemical technologies for economic reasons has been aggravated by frequent droughts. Food-crop production shortfalls have led to rural poverty, instability, and apathy. Consequently, migration to urban areas has increased. That in turn is increasing the poverty or the proportion of the poor in the cities, some of which are expanding fairly rapidly % 10 percent per year or even more in some countries. So, when we say that agriculture is providing food and resources to the industrial sector, in the case of labor it may not necessarily be employable labor. Poverty precludes attainment of the requisite discipline and educational background. The other production aspect regards cash crops. I think there are good prospects in the traditional export crops such as cocoa, cotton, coffee, tea, etc. But emphasis needs to be redirected to nonconventional export products, particularly horticultural crops and flowers, which are fairly profitable and thus offer excellent opportunities for countries to widen the enterprise base. Livestock has been neglected but has important linkages with the rest of the economy. Africa relies predominantly on off-take from pastoral lands whose resource base and productivity are rapidly declining. There are now environmental dimensions that need to be taken into account. Issues related to use of nonfarm inputs, chemicals, and artificial insemination also need to be given serious attention in both pastoral and agro-pastoral areas. Many governments are not emphasizing the importance of livestock in the agricultural base and as a means of stabilizing food supplies and rural incomes. Turning to the population and land aspect, although the population growth rate in Africa is quite high, wars, inter-ethnic conflicts, and diseases ironically seem to be containing the situation % I hope this won’t be taken in the wrong moral perspective. But, as I have already mentioned, migration from the rural areas, despondency, and apathy are readily discernible. These are phenomena that have become prevalent only in the last 20 years. There is, however, a lot of variability in Africa. Although population pressure is acute in the high-potential areas, there are many African countries where the land resources still are quite significant. Even within countries, there’s a lot of variability. Although the pressure is mainly on the high-potential areas, there is also pressure on the low-potential areas because people are resettling in lands that were traditionally reserved for wildlife or pastoralism. Such lands are invariably not stable enough for arable farming. Land adjudication is fairly advanced in countries such as Kenya but equity in distribution is an issue that must be deemed to be fairly sensitive in most African countries. Africans have realized the importance of land ownership especially in the face of high inflation rates. Governments thus use land as a weapon to dish out favors to contain discontent and as a means of rapid financial rewards to individuals and institutions considered to be faithful to prescribed views. There doesn’t seem to be a direct positive relationship between land security and investment in farming aimed at improving productivity values, which are aspects that need to be looked into. Irrigation is not being practiced due largely to the heavy capital requirements, particularly in relation to low, regulated market prices for food crops. Production of food crops often constitutes the major occupation of resource-poor farmers. On gender issues, I think in the past we emphasized the wrong aspects of equality between women and men. Women farmers are obviously overburdened by agricultural and domestic chores. Fortunately, emphasis, at least in terms of research, is now being redirected toward more meaningful aspects, such as raising the productivity of the women in order to reduce their drudgery. I think this whole process is being revisited, and there are a lot of nongovernmental organizations now directing their efforts toward women farmers and women’s groups. It is not all in vain. In West Africa, for example, you see a lot of vigorous market women and in eastern Africa there are a lot of women’s groups. Although the latter are often misused by politically minded leaders, they have the potential to raise agricultural productivity at least indirectly. In the past we stressed the problems of women rather than looking at the division of labor within the household involving all family members: school children, unemployed adults, men, and women. It is now clear that gender roles should be investigated in a proper perspective rather than merely highlighting the housewife’s misery and burdens in isolation. Finally, I would agree that there are signs of transformation going on. I’ve looked at transformation in various aspects % the mechanical transformation, the biological chemical transformation, institutional transformation, policy reforms % and I think lately we have been "If we learned anything at all from the Asian experience, it’s that you have to stick with favorable development policies, not for years but for decades." reminded of the communication and information technology transformation, which is important and should be spearheaded by governments, especially if exports are going to be improved. Of course, the governments have to participate in creating an enabling environment for exports by negotiating with foreign governments and providing information. In those respects, transformation is indeed taking place. There is a need for a larger role to be played by the government to provide the necessary environment. We’ve talked quite a lot about comparing Africa and what is going on in Africa with Southeast Asia. I don’t know if that is helpful whether it raises unnecessary too many questions without providing answers.