Top leaders and experts of Africa’s grain sector are gathered in Mombasa, Kenya this week, October 1-October 3, for the 5th African Grain Trade Summit. The theme for this year’s summit is “Africa: The Emerging Frontier for Global Investments in Grain Trade.” Participants include grain producers, traders, service providers, NGO’s, government representatives and leaders of financial institutions. They are discussing ways of improving agricultural trade policies, and breaking down barriers to intra-Africa trade.
The summit is hosted by the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC). Gerald Masila is its executive director. He said participants are focusing on Africa’s potential to feed itself as well as to feed the world.
“We have also seen in the recent past increased investment being channeled to Africa, specifically to the grain sector,” said Masila, who also emphasized that agriculture is an investment opportunity just like any other investment opportunity.
“There is a need to get more investments in agriculture and agribusiness so as to increase production and productivity of the African agriculture, because we need to increase the food production levels in Africa for the simple reason that Africa has become a net importer of foods, and the food import bill in Africa has already hit the 50-billion U-S dollar mark per year, and this is projected to continue increasing. And more importantly we can reverse the trends and get Africa becoming a net exporter of food and agricultural products,” explained the EAGC executive director.
Another focus of the summit is on one of Africa’s biggest resources—its youthful population.
“I see the agricultural sector in Africa going through a transformation. I see a major transformation that will be driven by a shift from the demographic, as the youthful population takes over agriculture from their aging dads and grandparents,” said Masila. He also explained that with the average age of the African farmer now over 60 years of age, they are already seeing a trend of young Africans getting into the agriculture sector. It’s a very positive sign because he said they are embracing the technology significantly.
In addition to wanting to learn about the agricultural industry, Masila said the youth population also wants to understand the business aspect of farming and agriculture.
He added that learning and understanding the importance of agriculture to economies will be a necessity for the younger generation as they take over the helm from their parents.