Agricultural investment in West Africa, the world’s largest cocoa-producing region, will grow “very significantly” by 2050 as the population expands and people move from rural areas to cities, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
West African urbanization is increasing at the fastest rate in the world, Karim Dahou, an executive manager at the OECD’s directorate for financial and enterprise affairs, said today in an interview at a conference in London. Population in West Africa has doubled every 20 years since 1960 and in cities the number of people has tripled, he said.
“In West Africa, the natural resources are conducive to huge agricultural output, there’s water, there are a lot of hydro-resources,” Dahou said at the Agriculture Investment Summit. “Our agricultural outlook by 2050 is very optimistic in terms of the growth of the sector globally, and including in Africa.”
Investment in West African agriculture will expand as the world tries to meet growing local and global demand, he said. The amount of capital invested per farmer in Africa is “very low,” one sixth of that in Asia and one fourth of that in Latin America, according to Dahou. That’s the reason why yields for many crops in the region are stagnant, he said.
Ghana and Nigeria are leading investments in agriculture in the region, he said. Nigeria, which spends $10 billion a year importing wheat, sugar, rice and fish, plans to boost domestic food production by 20 million metric tons by 2015, according to Akinwunmi Adesina, the country’s agriculture minister.
Cash crops such as cocoa and coffee in West Africa won’t be under threat as the region tackles food security and may even facilitate access to food as they bring in revenue, Dahou said. There’s enough land available to expand and improve yields for both food and cash crops, he said.
“The issue is not really space, it’s intensification,” Dahou said. “That’s what African agriculture, especially West African agriculture, needs.”
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