In March, Thomas Boni Yayi, President of Benin, set up an economic stimulus package focussed on agriculture.
Observing that 70% of Benin's population subsists, directly or indirectly, on agriculture, the government launched a strategic plan for 2011-2016, aimed at increasing productivity and employment in the agricultural sector. This program includes developing infrastructures, increasing agricultural mechanization and reinforcing networks.
This initiative is part of a broader context whereby the policy choices that prevailed in the 80s and 90s are being contested, leading to a massive disinvestment in agriculture by states and international organizations, as pointed out by Ibrahim Coulibaly in an previously published article1.
So, while agriculture accounts for 30-40% of the GDP in African countries, public investment dropped from 6.4% in 1980 to 4.5% in 2002, and the portion of development aid spent on agricultural investment fell by 26% to 4% over the same period.
However, since the 2000s, and particularly since the 2008 food crisis, a number of initiatives have been set up to put agriculture back on the forefront of national and international priorities. In 2003 in Maputo, African leaders pledged to allocate 10% of their budgetary resources to agriculture and in 2002, a growth program was launched focusing on the promotion of agriculture. At an international level, in 2011, for the first time, the G20 presided by France organized a summit devoted to agriculture.
No State in the world, except the oil States, has been able to initiate a process of sustainable economic growth without the prior development of its agriculture. If it is essential that developing countries, particularly in Africa, focus their economic policy on this strategic sector, it is imperative that international governance provides the conditions most favourable to its development and regional integration.
1 Please see momagri’s article “We cannot be told that we can eat when we have become competitive” at http://momagri.fr/UK/personal-accounts/We-cannot-be-told-that-we-can-eat-when-we-have-become-competitive_1030.html