Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent visit to Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria was the latest in the United Kingdom’s global diplomacy effort to secure strategic economic­ partnerships in preparation for the UK leaving the European Union (EU).  In the first visit of a UK Prime Minister to Africa since 2013, a 29 person delegation of government and private sector representatives pursued May’s goal of becoming Africa’s biggest foreign investor within four years.  As a result of the trip, trade and investment deals worth some 300 million GBP were announced, involving everything from automobile manufacturing and digital money transfer services to insurance and agricultural technology. Importantly, the UK also reached a deal with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique to facilitate trade and announced major investments in education and voluntary family planning for the future of African youth.

Trade between the UK and Africa already is worth 31 billion GBP annually.  By 2050, a quarter of the world’s consumers will be African. According to the Prime Minister, “With a shared passion for entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, now is the time for UK companies to strengthen their partnerships with Africa to boost jobs and prosperity both at home and overseas.”

According to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, 233 million Africans are either suffering from hunger or are malnourished; 32 million of these are under the age of five.  While Africa’s economy is driven by agriculture, farming continues to be largely at a subsistence level:  80 percent of the 51 million farmers are small holder farmers.  Further, 95 percent of all farming in Africa is entirely dependent on rainfall.  The challenge under these conditions is to increase food production by 50 to 70 percent by 2050 without destroying the environment.  What will be required is a combination of increasingly sophisticated farming techniques (e.g. precision farming), precision breeding; improved stewardship; access to advancements achieved by modern biotechnology to increase drought tolerance, increase yield, and combat plant pests and diseases; and enabling regulatory policies and frameworks.  Critical is the fact that more efficient agriculture directly translates into freeing women and children to pursue other economic activities and/or education.
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