Dear Ambassador Acconcia, dear Director Edeme from the African Union Commission, dear Ghanaian and European colleagues and friends, allow me to congratulate you all for this initiative and allow me to share with you some observations on the continental dimension – and ambition – of this event.
- Africa and Europe are neighbours, friends and longstanding partners. Two years ago the African Union and the European Union embarked on a common strategy to improve the life of our citizens, our economies, and our environment.
- We both recognised that the agriculture and food sector must be at the heart of that strategy. The sector is crucial for employment and economic growth. Agriculture and food is going to be at the heart of Africa’s economy for years to come. It will be key in fighting food and nutrition insecurity, reducing poverty and creating decent jobs, in particular in rural areas And food security and nutrition remain at the heart of EU’s support programmes in developing countries.
- So we agreed we needed to cooperate more closely to stimulate trade and investment in the agri-food sector in Africa – in order to improve productivity and value creation, create jobs in Africa, and strengthen food security – to support Africa in realising its massive potential – like Asia’s green revolution a generation ago.
- We are doing this through many means, including by encouraging the creation of a continent wide free Trade areas. But that in itself is not going to energise or upscale Africa’s food and agriculture industry. We need to find additional ways to move up the value chain, disseminate modern agricultural practices, create agribusinesses out of subsistence farming, and above all attract both local capital and FDI into agribusiness.
- The key to all this is of course getting buy in from the private sector both local and foreign. We are no longer in an era where official development aid is a panacea for development. We are now in the era of attracting private capital, expertise and technology into the agrifood sector in Africa
- One way to stimulate investment in the agrifood sector is by creating agribusiness federations or platforms. The first such platform is you, here, today. That is why we are meeting today. This meeting is an opportunity for the agribusiness sector to organise itself to meet these challenges and to identify the conditions for sustainable investment.
- What we are trying to do is to bring together all the stakeholders, both local and overseas, to look at the agrifood investment climate in the country and the region, look at what works, and what needs to change and improve, look at where value can be added, look at what financial instruments and legal framework will encourage inward investment; and in doing so establish also a business lobby that can give advice to its members and make clear to government what it needs in order to ensure a friendly and transparent business environment. An agribusiness platform such as this can be a forum for exchanging best practices and sharing advice and technology, for developing standards and guidance for its members, a forum for developing marketing, promotion and branding strategies, a forum for business to business contacts and outreach to international partners, and a forum to develop cooperatives or producer groups, credit arrangements based on economies of scale.
- For most of you here today this event is about sending a signal that Ghana is one of the most attractive countries in West Africa for agribusiness investment and trade. It is the launch event for an agribusiness platform in Ghana. For the European Commission and for the African Union however today’s event goes beyond this. We see this event today as a test case, a trial run if you like, to test the viability of agribusiness platforms elsewhere in Africa, ultimately at the regional and the continental level. Europe has a Food Drink Europe representing the agrifood industry of the whole of Europe.
We all want, I want one day to see a Food Drink Africa representing the whole sector across the continent. You are planting the seeds today in every sense. So I genuinely hope that today’s brainstorming and the lessons drawn can be deployed not only in Ghana in the years ahead, but in the region and across the continent as we develop agribusiness platforms bringing together African and European farmers and food producers, financial houses, traders and investors. I wish you great success in this very first agribusiness platform.
African Union – EU cooperation