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Africa’s processing industry promises broader economic growth — Global issues


Chakib Jenane
  • Idea by Chakib Jenane (Washington DC)
  • Associated Press Service

However, the rise of an increasingly affluent urban middle class across Africa is threatening to shift diets away from traditional staples like millet in favor of processed foods. higher value and more convenient are often sourced from outside the continent.

However, Africa’s homegrown processing industry is increasingly able to provide more complex products, turning unprocessed millet into nutritious ready-to-eat meals such as rice-like products, porridge, etc. This is a win-win for farmers and consumers.

Africa’s emerging agro-processing industry clearly presents a great opportunity to capitalize on the growing demand for processed foods that has so far been largely met by imported products. export.

Developing this sector could provide valuable opportunities for African livelihoods and economies across the region, while also reducing the continent’s food import bill, which currently stands at approx. 35 billion USD a year.

However, the sector that exists today is just the tip of the iceberg, and data from across the continent highlights its enormous untapped potential, especially in terms of cultivated staples. work long ago.

For example, the rise of the millet processing sector in Senegal has reversed a decline in consumption trends driven by the growing urban population and their demand for faster and more convenient staples. .

The percentage of millet has increased to nearly 30% of cereal consumption by high-income people in Senegal, which is equivalent to imported rice.

The introduction of more complex millet products has also opened up new market opportunities for smallholders which, along with increased demand, is driving up the prices they can expect to receive in the market.

This means not only greater economic growth for national economies, but greater spending capacity and more stable livelihoods for Africa’s small-scale producers.

Another interesting case study is tomato, the fourth most economically valuable food crop produced in low- and middle-income countries. Fresh tomatoes are generally more accessible to small-scale processors than larger plants, leaving significant potential for the development of higher value products.

As a result, the resurgence of the processing sector in Africa is providing new opportunities for tomato production by helping to increase value and reduce post-harvest losses, stabilizing supplies for consumers throughout the year. for the whole year, and at the same time ensure a stable source of revenue for manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a number of African countries have seized on the enormous opportunities presented by their processing sectors to bring dual benefits to their economies and livelihoods.

About 68% of Tanzania’s manufactured exports, for example, are processed and resource-intensive agricultural products, such as bottled juices, cooking oils and packaged flours. The majority of these goods are also being shipped to other African countries, showing that greater agro-food processing capacity on the continent can meet Africa’s demand for processed products. of Africa like.

This not only replaces the need for transcontinental imports, but also ensures the benefits of processing for producers and consumers who remain in Africa to deliver economic growth for future generations. .

The growth of Africa’s agro-processing sector clearly offers an opportunity to generate sustainable income for the continent’s smallholder farmers through higher value products that appeal to growing urban markets. change.

It also offers many job opportunities for the continent’s growing young population, which has the fastest growth rate in the world.

With Africans’ culinary tastes and dietary preferences evolving, so must their agri-food industry if they are to remain competitive, successful and sustainable, delivering growth and improvement. livelihood for millions of people.

In particular, unleashing the potential of the continent’s processing sector offers a clear path to achieving this goal.

Chakib Jenane joined the World Bank Group in 2014 and is currently the Practice Director for Agricultural and Food Practices in West and Central Africa.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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