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Africa – a land of promise and missed opportunities

February 9, 2015
  • West Africa
  • East Africa
  • Central Africa
  • Southern Africa

Africa has massive scope for both agricultural production and regional trade. Yet many of the opportunities for converting this potential into local wealth are currently being missed. That was the message from Dr Theo de Jager, the newly elected president of the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO), when he visited CTA last week.

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 “Africa is the continent of promise. In Africa we have 46 percent of the world’s underutilised land. We’ve got more unutilised groundwater than any other continent. We’ve got wonderful heat and light units in terms of our climate,” he said.

“Those are things that money cannot buy. It makes Africa the best opportunity for the production of food and fuel, fibre. Unfortunately, there are more investors from elsewhere, who are using those opportunities, than Africans themselves.”

Dr. de Jager is also president of the Southern African Confederation of African Unions (SACAU), which represents 17 farmers’ organisations in 12 countries. Both PAFO and SACAU are key CTA partners and their leader praised the Centre for its support, most recently in helping PAFO to develop value chains.

“I have seldom come across an institution (such as CTA) with so much expertise under one roof. And with a fresh angle on development, understanding that there is a big difference between helping people to help themselves and just dishing out aid,” he said.

With many African countries relying strongly on food imports, intra-African trade is being neglected, claims Dr. de Jager. “We are spending so much energy and time in creating linkages to markets, but we are a massive market ourselves,” he said “Intra-African trade is part of the mindset that needs to be changed.”

Watch a recent interview with Dr. de Jager, conducted as part of a special video compilation to mark CTA's 30th anniversary. 

CTA interviews Theo de Jager, President, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions from CTA on Vimeo.