Bright prospects for agricultural cooperation between Brazil and Africa

Imagine an infertile Savannah of 204 million hectares becoming a multi-billion dollar bread basket… Impossible? And yet… three decades ago, the ‘infertile’ Brazilian Savannah, “Cerrados”, was transformed into one of the most productive agricultural lands in the world generating more than $50 billion per year.

If Brazil succeeded in transforming its Savannah, what prevents Africa from doing the same? The Guinea Savannah is facing similar constraints to the Brazilian Cerrados in the 1970s: nutrient-poor, acidic soils; highly variable rain, and limited access to regional and export markets, absence of appropriate seed, lime and fertilizer, irrigation and supporting infrastructure.

In Brazil, rural infrastructure development, technological and institutional innovations were required to transform the scientific breakthrough of soil management and new crop varieties into bountiful crop production across the savannahs.

Following the successful transformation of the Brazilian Cerrados and Argentinean Pampas, the Brazilian Agricultural Corporation (CAMPO) and the Argentinean Association of Zero-tillage Practitioners (AAPRESID) have demonstrated a capacity to dramatically increase yields on three continents — South America, Europe, and Africa. Their zero-tillage crop production method is environmentally friendly, improves soil structure, conserves soil water, and helps to mitigate climate change. Their crop production programs are adapted to different farm sizes: smallholder, medium and large commercial farms.

The African Development Bank is today taking the lead in boosting the cooperation opportunities between Brazil and Africa. It is discussing with CAMPO and AAPRESID the introduction of production technology, entrepreneurial capacity, and private sector investment for transforming the African Savannah. Our cooperation also aims to facilitate private sector investment of Brazilian/Argentinian companies to take on the challenge of developing the vast African Savannah.

Africa has huge agricultural markets and much-unused land. Food and agricultural markets in Africa will rise to $1 trillion by 2025 from today’s value of $850 million. The Guinea Savannah of Sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 400 million hectares—a region the size of India or twice the size of the Brazilian Savannah, and less than 10% is utilized. The Guinea Savannah stretches across 25 countries, from West Africa to Southern Africa, supporting the livelihoods of 239 million people. The Guinea Savannah also remains the world’s best option to increase food production. We invite Brazilian farming corporations to explore the opportunities for investment in Africa for domestic consumption and for export. An opportunity not to be missed!

If Brazil succeeded in transforming its Savannah, what prevents Africa from doing the same?

In collaboration with Martin Fregene, Special Adviser to the Vice President African Development Bank

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