The 6th Africa Agri Expo (AAE2023), in partnership with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, happened on February 8 and 9, 2023.
It aimed at connecting Africa to the global agribusiness industry.
Organized by the TAB Group and held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi, it brought together keynote speakers such as the India’s High Commission to Kenya, Namgya Khampa, State Department for Crop Development Principal Secretary, Kello Harsama, (representing the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi), and TAB Group CEO, Tahir Bari, among others.
The one-of-its-kind in Africa event was a well-established platform connecting Africa’s agribusiness sector with the rest of the world.
Entrepreneurs and stakeholders from leading Indian, Kenyan, and other international companies also attended.
The two days of impactful networking, business talks, knowledge gains, and many exciting new agricultural avenues in thriving Africa’s agriculture industry made the much-anticipated AAE2023 in Kenya a resounding success.
It was officially opened by Khampa, leading other dignitaries from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Agriculture and Food Authority, Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET), and numerous stakeholders in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
AAE2023 leaned toward the theme ‘Your getaway to agribusiness in Africa’.
Launching the expo, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, in his speech which Harsama, his representative, read, stated that Kenya is re-engineering its approach to how agriculture will be conducted in the country for maximum benefit.
CS Linturi observed that the theme for the Agri Expo is aligned with Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the government’s manifesto on agriculture.
“Our strategic objective as a government is to create an enabling environment that will create favorable opportunities for agricultural growth,” the CS stated.
Additionally, the CS called on all relevant stakeholders and agencies to support the government in realizing this initiative.
He further urged the exhibitors to set up businesses in Kenya and venture into untapped sectors.
Furthermore, CS Linturi mentioned that the Agricultural sector plays a vital role in the economy, contributing almost 50 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to research by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture contributes 33% of Kenya’s GDP directly and 27% indirectly through linkages with other sectors.
“We want to put 3 million hectares of land under irrigation in the next six to ten years.
You can imagine the kind of products and materials we require to engage 3 million hectares to support food production in the Country and Africa at large,” PS Harsama remarked.
He also urged the exhibitors to invest and open branches of their companies in various parts of the country to reach farmers in remote areas.
“Next time when you have these expos, hold them in agricultural counties so as to reach the farmers directly,” Harsama noted.
The event organizer, TAB Group Chief Executive Officer Tahir Bari, said that over one hundred investors and potential businesses are keen on setting up a base in Kenya.
“Interest from investors in the Agricultural Value chains is growing with many seeking opportunities, and others coming to sign deals after successful discussions with Kenyan companies,” Bari said.
He added that investors from various parts of the world, including the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the USA, attended the Agri Expo with a keen interest in tackling key issues in the supply food chain by introducing modern technologies to help the agricultural sector grow and become more attractive to youths.
It focused on creating sustainability, security, and strength through forming alliances.
Topics covered touched on collaborative public-private partnerships and encouraging the youth to participate in agriculture to elevate regional production by using technologies.
Mariatu Kamara – Country Director and Representative for International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – said, “With less than ten years to 2030, many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved unless we take action to make this a reality for all working in agri-food systems and rural economies.”
The expo broke all previous records with the ministry keynote speeches and dignitaries touring the exhibition area with global front-runners showcasing cutting-edge agri-technologies and innovative solutions.
Such included CENSA from India and more from 35+ countries, and the floor buzzing with one-on-one meetings and great business deals being facilitated, all to boost the food security in the region.
Nevertheless, from the technology sessions to one-on-one spectacular business meetings, AAE 2023 showed us what agriculture as a whole could do when industry enthusiasts gather together in one place and talk business while sharing valuable insights.
The focus was on how businesses in this sector can champion the latest technologies and solutions, boosting the productivity and profitability of farmers.
Need for collaboration
Kenya requires numerous partnerships to strengthen its agriculture industry.
When it comes to public-private partnerships, Kenya is an open book.
Lorien Innes, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Business Development Manager, gave insights into how ESRI uses its technology to allow people to understand and put things into geographical context.
“Agribusinesses want to understand where their customers are located and where they want to open up new distribution points.
Technology helps these agricultural value chains with few days of collection, a little mapping, and crop monitoring using satellite imagery,” Innes explained.
Young people should also get involved in agriculture; it has generated billions of dollars, particularly in the retail value chain, and it is not an outdated culture.
Looking at various value chains, new and emerging fields create prospects for partnership and collaboration that can also lead to creating jobs and eradicating unemployment, which in the long term strengthens economies.
Even though it has become the top exporter of agricultural goods, particularly flowers that primarily target the European market, Kenya, along with other African nations, are still fighting to attain the free flow of goods as much as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is concerned.
Harmonizing standards and administrative procedures is another barrier to the free flow of goods.
The Kenyan Chambers of Commerce are working on this harmony with the promise of smooth flow within the next five years.
Taxes and tariff trade taxes are also being discussed so that standards don’t differ from one country to the next, as well as trade routes to enable agricultural products.
Kenya offers investment opportunities in agriculture.
Despite being the foundation of numerous economies, Kenyan agriculture faces a severe financial shortfall.
The financial gap is caused by a significant disparity between the amount of financing farmers require to operate efficiently and what they can obtain from institutions.
Food insecurity is a function of the goods’ competitiveness, overall yields, and the resources at hand.
Since 33 million African small-scale farmers cultivate on less than a hectare of land, 80 percent of the continent’s food items are produced by small-scale farmers, who are, therefore, in need of funding and investment.
Considering that most of these farmers also lack credit histories and some only have limited access to the financing market.
Investing in research and development, enhancing digital platforms for accessibility, creating tax obstacles for farmers, and government subsidies are just a few of the multiple fronts that should be addressed to improve food security.
However, working together with many platforms and agricultural actors can result in a broader transformation.
Mitigating post-harvest food loss
Food losses between harvest and retail sales, often known as Post-harvest losses, are a major issue that threatens food security and the ability of many developing nations to generate income.
A third of the world’s food production is lost, which amounts to nearly $1 trillion in economic damages.
the post-harvest loss is the only drawback despite the globe producing enough food.
Many food supplies are lost in the process from harvest to storage because of mechanization, a lack of suitable storage facilities, and even a lack of staff to manage the products.
Investments are required for product harvesting and storage.
Reducing food losses requires training farmers to manage and store the produce they handle after harvest.
For instance, many farmers in underdeveloped nations need more key skills like knowing when to harvest, drying crops, managing moisture, and safe storage.
Mechanization in Africa
The sub-Saharan region is still experiencing stagnant mechanization, with a total post-harvest loss rate of 55%.
Mechanization can increase productivity along the agricultural value chain, improve value addition, lower production costs, and give agricultural lead industrialization.
Small-scale farmers in modest facilities produce the majority of products in Africa’s agriculture. Yet, the continent still endures the worst food crisis in the world, leaving a wealth of untapped investment opportunities.
The Agricultural industry in Africa is witnessing unprecedented development, with the region having over 50% of the world’s fertile and untapped land.
According to reports, African agribusiness could be worth over $1 trillion by 2030 — however, to achieve this growth – Africa needs efficient Machines, Equipment, Irrigation and Agri-Technology, Agro chemicals, inputs and solutions.
The speakers also delved into ways in which African agribusiness could be improved through intensifying irrigation.
In his presentation on Agricultural solutions for sustainable development in Africa: the role of irrigation in achieving food security, Eng. Charles Muasya, Acting Chief Executive Officer, National Irrigation Authority, championed sustainable irrigation development in Africa.
Such includes expansion of groundwater, prioritizing community-based smallholder irrigation projects, adequate infrastructure and technology such as big dams and pipe networks, and water management innovations.
“Agriculture contributes 23% of GDP in the country, therefore, more emphasis should be placed on sustainable irrigation development”, said Eng. Muasya.
Additional details by Michael Odongo, The Scholar Media Africa.