Kenya will play host of this year’s African Green Revolution Forum in a gathering that will see 1,500 delegates among them African leaders, private agribusiness firms and academia.
Under the theme ‘Seize the moment, Africa rising through agricultural transformation,’ the forum – which is the largest agriculture conference on the continent – will provide a platform for the advancement of policies and offer investment opportunities for participants among others.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the event will allow for interaction with policy makers while giving businesses a platform to showcase their businesses.
“Kenya is once again hosting a high profile event. With this comes numerous opportunities for all stakeholders. This is especially so for people seeking to interact with expert and influencers in the sector,” Bett said during a stakeholders meeting ahead of the weeklong event kicks off on September 5.
The event comes at a time when the government has proposed to remove levies on tea and coffee and set aside Sh4.9 billion to subside fertiliser and seeds, among other moves to promote the sector as announced during the presentation of the 2016/2017 budgetary estimates by the National Treasury.
The government has also made other moves to promote the sector, for instance, the backing-up of commercial farming instead of subsistence farming. According to Bett, a majority of Kenyan farmers are subsistence producers leaving a narrow percent to feed the country and export the surplus. Hence he encouraged farmers to move the sector to a new level by urging them to grow more than what they consume.
“Agriculture directly contributes to about 30 percent of the GDP and another 25 percent indirectly, and is a source of 75 percent of industrial raw materials. It further accounts for 65 percent of Kenya’s total exports, and provides 18 percent and 60 percent of the formal and total employment respectively.”
The forum will also give a platform to address challenges facing the sector across the continent.
“Despite a total of Sh1.4 trillion being committed towards investing in agriculture on the continent, only 20 percent of the amount has been converted into actual investments,” said Grow Africa Executive Director William Asiko.
Asiko faulted the lack of actual conversions to business mainly to the unpredictable nature of most African agricultural investments.
He further stated that lack of consistency in quality and quantity of most agri-products was also another reason why the continent was failing to attract investments.
“The problem is that we have not yet mastered productivity, which we cannot afford to operate without if we are to get any sort of investment inflows.”
He recommended focused private sector involvement which ensures investments that deliver benefits for farmers and agribusiness SMEs.