Agric innovations can help African farmers compete- report

By JIMOH BABATUNDE
A new report released by the African Development Bank
(AfDB) and the International Food Policy Research Institute
(IFPRI) says Africa must embrace agricultural innovations to
better compete in an evolving global bio-economy
The report, entitled “GM Agriculture Technologies for Africa,”
analyzes the benefits and constraints of adopting genetically
modified (GM) technologies to address challenges related to
population, poverty, food insecurity and climate change.
Speaking at the launch of the report during the week, at a
conference in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, commemorating the
Africa Year of Agriculture and Food Security, AfDB Vice-
President Aly Abou-Sabaa, emphasized the
underdevelopment of Africa’s trade in agriculture, especially
intra-regional trade, in spite of the vast potential for its
expansion.
“In order to meet their food and nutrition requirements,
African countries import about $25 billion worth of food
each year, but only about $1 billion worth of such imports
come from intra-African trade,” said Abou-Sabaa, Vice-
President for Agriculture, Water, Human Development,
Governance and Natural Resources. “We must implement
innovative solutions that can not only bolster agricultural
performance, but also promote agri-food trade and food
security,” Abou-Sabaa added.
“Agriculture is an economic engine for Africa,” said Shenggen
Fan, IFPRI’s Director General. “Biotechnology is among the
various technologies being adopted by advanced and
emerging agricultural economies and offers the potential to
help millions of people become more food secure,” he
added.
This report, commissioned by AfDB and prepared by IFPRI,
discusses the need to transform Africa’s agriculture sector
from one of historically low productivity to one that is a
high-potential driver of economic development, drawing on
technological and systemic improvements to foster
intensification as opposed to extension.
It focuses on GM technologies in particular, as these are the
most controversial, directly impacting the adoption rates of
biotechnologies in Africa. Based on published evidence
about the benefits and constraints of the adoption of these
technologies, the report provides an overall, evidence-based
snapshot of GM technology in Africa.
While adoption of GM technology has been proceeding in
many developing countries, notably in Asia and Latin
America, Africa lags behind: of the 54 AfDB member
countries, only Burkina Faso, South Africa, and Sudan are
now planting and commercializing genetically modified (GM)
crops.
Other countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria,
and Uganda, are making important advances towards the
commercialization of GM crops. Progress in most other
African countries continues to be quite limited or non-
existent.
The report demonstrates underinvestment, weak capacity,
and weak regulatory structures for biotechnology in Africa.
Therefore, efforts to increase public investment in
biotechnology and to upgrade and strengthen science-
based, cost-effective regulatory systems should be seen as
the highest priority.

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