*** In the Photo: Olugbenya Adelana, Group Head: Agribusiness, Solid Minerals, Export Finance Wema Bank, Nigeria; Ms. Jamila Hassan, National Gender and Social Safeguards Officer, SAPZ Coordination Team; Dr. Zakari Tsiga, Program Operations Manager, SAPZ Coordination Team; and Engr. Ma’ruf Ajenifuja, National Infrastructure Engineer, SAPZ Coordination Team ***

By Staff Reporter

Lagos, Nigeria – Market Access Africa 2024, a pivotal event organised by the African Agri Council, centred its discussions on enhancing agricultural productivity and market access to reduce Africa’s reliance on imported food and unlock the continent’s agricultural potential.

Regional collaboration was a significant theme, with programs like the West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program and the ECOWAS Rice Offensive highlighted as successful initiatives. These efforts showcase the power of collective action in improving crop yields and promoting sustainable farming practices across the region.

A major focus was the transformative potential of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs). Experts emphasised that these zones could revitalise rural areas by attracting investment in processing facilities, storage infrastructure, and transportation networks, creating economic hubs that benefit farmers, businesses, and communities.

“The discussions at Market Access Africa 2024 make it clear: Africa is on the verge of an agricultural revolution,” said Reinhard Lotz, Marketing Director for the African Agri Council. “By prioritising productivity, fostering regional collaboration, and strategically leveraging SAPZs, we can reduce reliance on imports, empower rural communities, and drive sustainable economic growth across the continent.”

The conference highlighted the urgent need for action. With a growing population and a pressing need for improved food security, Africa has a unique opportunity to leverage its vast agricultural resources. By embracing innovative solutions, fostering regional partnerships, and developing infrastructure strategically, Africa can transform its agricultural sector and secure a prosperous future for millions.

Participants at the conference also discussed the importance of integrating technology into agriculture. Innovations such as precision farming, climate-smart agriculture, and digital platforms for market access were identified as critical tools for modernising the sector. These technologies can enhance efficiency, reduce waste, and provide farmers with real-time data to make informed decisions.

Another key topic was the empowerment of smallholder farmers. Speakers emphasised the need for policies and programs that support small-scale farmers, who make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in Africa. By providing access to finance, training, and resources, these farmers can significantly increase their productivity and contribute to food security.

Sustainable farming practices were also a focal point. The conference underscored the importance of adopting environmentally friendly methods to ensure long-term agricultural success. Practices such as agroforestry, organic farming, and water conservation were highlighted as essential for maintaining soil health and combating the effects of climate change.

The role of women and youth in agriculture was another critical area of discussion. Empowering these groups through targeted initiatives can drive innovation and increase productivity. The conference called for greater inclusion of women and youth in decision-making processes and for creating opportunities that encourage their active participation in the agricultural sector.

In conclusion, Market Access Africa 2024 set a comprehensive agenda for transforming Africa’s agriculture. By focusing on productivity, regional collaboration, technological integration, smallholder support, sustainable practices, and the inclusion of women and youth, the continent can achieve a robust and resilient agricultural sector. The conference emphasised that with concerted efforts and strategic investments, Africa can not only ensure food security but also become a significant player in the global agricultural market, driving economic growth and improving the livelihoods of millions.