Agro at Forefront of Transformation of African Marketplace
Africa has been enjoying an economic renaissance, as a myriad of emerging market nations join the international circle of exchange. Prosperity for all is possible, though many serious challenges remain.
Indeed, African farmers recently found themselves at war with natural pests, such as the armyworm. When armyworm larvae turn into moths, the creatures relocate, destroying more crops. In just a few weeks the armyworm has invaded six additional African nations (after originally washing up on the shores of Sub-Saharan Africa by boat), with the potential to hinder the trajectory of Pan-African agriculture.
Some governments are distributing pesticides; in Malawi, which is threatened by drought as well as armyworms, President Peter Mutharika recently made remarks suggesting a solution is no where in sight.
Despite looming threats such as the armyworm, I see an opportunity for sustainable development through solutions in ‘Agro.’ The private sector, and in particular, the African private sector, will soon begin to play a more autonomous and more proactive role in solving the cross-sectoral challenges of today.
Contec Global Agro, as an example, provides biodegradable, non-toxic products which are effective and efficient in protecting crops from pests like the armyworm. With a laboratory in Abuja, Nigeria, Contec has invested some $2 million over the last three years targeting the larvae. Our company has studied environmentally-friendly bacteria and fungi as possible agents for use against the destructive pests.
Firms such as ours have similarly taken with efficacy other threatening larvae, such as that of Tuta Absoluta, which some people call ‘tomato ebola.’ Contec Global came up with an organic, bio-pesticide, ‘Fixit GA,’ which can be sprayed on tomatoes, immunizing whole crops and preventing attacks. Moreover, we have addressed the problem from another direction, producing enriched soil which has generated abundant harvests.
This approach reflects a long-term perspective. It isn’t enough to solve the immediate problems, important though they remain. A true solution requires acting in a way which ensures that future generations have similar, even better opportunities for sustainable growth.
That’s why as a corporate practice, we choose to offer academic credits for internship support; educating, motivating young men and women (two-thirds of West African farmers are women) as a pragmatic endeavor to encourage the cultivation of arable land, while building a workforce dedicated to deterring threats from not just entering our shores, but spreading unabated.
In this effort, Africa has an opportunity to leapfrog ahead, escaping problems of the past.
Technology should not be treated as a luxury. We see an opportunity to work with partners and escape geographic and political boundaries, while using technology to advance all humanity.
Africans are working to democratize access and bring affordable innovation to those who once might have felt locked out of the market. People from all walks of life are moving forward across the continent, after enduring years of disappointment and frustration. But it no longer is enough for us to follow other countries. Africa should and will take the lead.
We are committed to being part of that process.