Growth in Agric key to poverty reduction – World Bank

African governments need to stimulate growth in the agricultural sector in order to bring the current booming economic growth in the continent at par with poverty reduction, the World Bank has said.

The bank said Africa’s inability to do that over the years had led to a rising growth that failed to impact positively on the lives of the citizens.

Using 2012 as a case study, the bank said although African economies maintained their strong growth in 2012 compared to their peers in other regions, that robust growth was natural resources-led, leaving the agricultural sector an employer of a chunk of the citizens in the continent.

“To reduce poverty and make sure these growth numbers reflect in the livelihoods of the people, governments need to invest more growth in agriculture,” the bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, Mr Shanta Devarajan, said in a video conference.

He was speaking to journalists in some African countries, including Ghana, after the release of Africa’s Pulse, a World Bank publication that explores the issues that shape the development and socio-economic agenda of the continent.

It is a biennial publication from the office of World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa.

The report said 25 per cent of the countries in Africa grew at seven per cent or higher, “putting them in league with the fastest growing countries in the world.”

It said growth in sub-Saharan African remained strong at an estimated 4.9 per cent.

“Excluding South Africa, the remaining economies grew at a powerful 5.8 per cent – higher than the developing country average of 4.9 per cent,” the report added.

While admitting that the impressive growth recorded in the continent had partly reduced poverty in most countries, the report said the reduction was slow compared to the economic growth and blamed it on the lagging growth in agriculture and other key sectors that directly affected the populace.

“Much of the region’s growth has been led by high commodity prices, resilient domestic demand and increase in foreign direct investments and not in agriculture and the informal sector.”

“But you can’t experience growth if what you are producing is not increasing,” Mr Deverajan said in an answer to a question.

He recommended that much attention should be paid to poverty mitigation measures such as irrigation and mechanised farming, subsidies on agricultural implements and cash transfers to rural farmers and residents in general.

The bank has, meanwhile, predicted that growth in sub-Saharan African would average 4.9, 5.1 and 5.2 per cent in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.

“The same driving forces that have underpinned the region’s robust performance in recent years are expected to be sustained over the projected horizon,” the report said.