Unless Nigeria’s farming population move away from subsistence farming and adopt industrialised agriculture, the quest for food security will remain a mirage, Senior Special Adviser to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on Industrialisation, Prof. Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, has said.
According to him, it is imperative to shift Nigeria’s current agrarian condition to a modern industrialised agriculture-manufacturing sector which is defined by higher wage rates, higher marginal productivity, and a demand for more industrial workers.
The AfDB boss, who spoke at the Africa Social Impact Summit in Lagos, recently, noted that industrialisation will boost the economy and increase overall high productivity that raises living standards through incomes expansion.
The only way to escape from poverty is to deliberately plan transition from a low-income economy to a middle-income economy through industrialisation, he reiterated.
He said such transition brings about significant changes to the form and contents of production even when labour-based activity remains unchanged.
“Poverty and hunger should not be considered normal in a continent with 65% of all uncultivated arable land in the world. Beyond food security we must process our raw materials and export to earn foreign exchange. All we need is the infrastructure to develop the right ecosystem for companies to thrive in,” he stressed.
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka stated that the pathway to industrialise agriculture lies in optimal deployment of the combination of skills, knowledge and the use of productive input such as fertiliser, agro-chemicals, new farming techniques, among others.
According to him, for the country to make sustainable progress it must target growth in agriculture (at least by 6% per year); foster creation of non-farm rural employment and rural industrialisation, and the transformation of domestic (and access to), international markets.
“To break the cycle of poverty, we must break the malady of underdevelopment: which we have diagnosed as a stable equilibrium level of per capita income at or close to subsistence requirements. It is a situation where only a small percentage, if any, of the economy’s income is directed toward net investment,” he said.
He said there should be less emphasis on subsistence agriculture characterised by ‘low-yield staple food crops on small plots with a minimal use of technology and input such as fertiliser or high yielding seed varieties.
“Africa is unable to feed itself. The region relies on imports for food and will remain so unless there is an urgent paradigmatic shift in the structures of African economies. Food imports cost Africa US$55 billion a year but this could double to $110 billion by 2030. Many African cities will double in size by 2050, increasing demand for food and other infrastructure and services,” he added.