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Africa's agricultural opportunities

Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 02:26

May 8 - As delegates get down to business at the WEF in Nigeria Melanie Ralph looks at the potential of the continent's agricultural sector and the problems they face.

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West Africa is one of the world's richest fisheries - its waters team with snapper, grouper and much more. These fish farmers in Ghana are pulling in a profit but they could do better if the infrastructure wasn't so poor. Roads to the farm have to be maintained by them, and generators are needed to combat intermittent electricity. The additional demands add to already high production costs. Tropo farm owner says that it makes it hard to compete with cheap imports from places like China. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF TROPO FARMS, MARK AMECHI, SAYING: "Most of our fish goes out through small fish traders. They buy and sell, buy and sell. We sell whole fresh fish. We would like to get our fish further from where we grow it, further from where we currently distribute, but there are a lot of logistical challenges. And for the future, looking at the economic climate, it would be good to maybe get into some export, but at the moment we're just not competitive, it's just too expensive." On the other side of the continent another commodity could be doing better. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and Africa's top producer. Its entrepreneurs are making the most of their natural resource partly thanks to the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange. It opened in 2008 and has helped the agricultural industry grow by more than 6 percent a year. And there's plenty of scope for making even more profit says Omar Bagersh who runs a local coffee company (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-DIRECTOR OF COFFEE-TRADING, ROASTING AND FARMING COMPANY S.A. BAGERSH, OMAR BAGERSH, SAYING: "There is a general agreement that coffee producing countries cannot roast, industrialise their coffee or add value and export the finished product in all coffee producing countries. So it's like we're condemned to always exporting raw coffee. But we think that that's not true. I mean there are ways you can do it, it's not generally easy to do that, but if you focus on specific niche markets here and there, we think there is a way of exporting a finished product." Africa accounts for just 2 percent of the world's agricultural exports, down from 8 percent half a century ago. Its 54 countries export less than Thailand. Access to financial resources as well as limited infrastructure are partly to blame. Along with illegal and unregulated farming - which costs the fishing industry alone more than a billion dollars a year. But Africa's agricultural potential is huge. 58% of its working population makes a living from it. And it's home to 60% of the world's uncultivated arable land.

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Africa's agricultural opportunities

Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 02:26