Make Africa food sufficient Ofori-Atta charges Peer countries

The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has called for increased investments in agriculture and its value chain by African states to help make the continent food sufficient and lift millions out of hunger.

The minister also reiterated the need for the continent to unite in its fight against the “unfair and ‘perceived’ riskiness of investment opportunities on the continent compared to those in the West.”

He said the united front against the unfair perception of risk was needed to augment efforts to increase investment inflows into the continent.

Addressing the 22nd Annual General Meeting of the ATI in Accra today, Mr Ofori-Atta said African governments must leverage the wealth of continental bodies such as the Africa Trade Insurance (ATI) and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to increase food production and reduce the reliance on imports as well as remove deliberate doubts placed on investments in the continent.

The minister, who is the Board Chairman of the continental trade insurer, was opening the AGM that is being attended by Finance Ministers and representatives from the 20-member countries, investors, board of directors and staff and key officers in the insurance industry in the continent.

He said the fight to make Africa food sufficient was particularly necessary to curb the imminent rise in hunger levels in the continent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The investment banker and economist said that the two global crises were pushing more than 46 million Africans into hunger.

This, he said required that the attainment of a sustainable food and agricultural sector in Africa must become a primary concern for all.

Given the ATI’s wealth of experience and resources, including more than US$580 million of assets under management, a balance sheet of US$767.4 million and profits in excess of US$34.8 million as of 2021, Mr Ofori-Atta said the institution could be leveraged to help address the food challenges facing the continent.

“Of course, with inflation at record highs, fertilizer prices more than doubling, and the number of people experiencing hunger estimated to have increased by 46 million in Africa, prioritizing the attainment of a sustainable food and agriculture sector in Africa must also be a primary concern for all of us,” he said, noting that the company was not new to the agricultural sector.

“Permit me to share an example of ATI’s contribution to food security in Africa.”

“At the onset of the pandemic, ATI supported an Agribusiness and Food Company in East Africa with a facility that allowed the company to sell wheat to seven African countries at competitive rates.”

“This transaction was valued at US$11 million and covered against the risk of non-payment.”

“Such support for fortifying food supply chains must continue to be a feature of ATI’s activities, particularly with the operationalisation of the AfCFTA, which creates a single market for goods and services,” he said.

He noted that with the war in Ukraine still raging on, Africa could not afford to be complacent about creating the right conditions for food security and trade growth.

He said it was also clear that policymakers and development finance institutions alike must face up to their shared responsibility for sustaining and strengthening economic recovery across the continent.

The Finance Minister also commended the ATI for its work in Ghana, noting that he was encouraged by the progress ATI had made here in Ghana.

“Since launching its ‘Ghanaian operations’ in February 2020, the institution has been instrumental in enhancing our health sector’s capacity and quality. Additionally, ATI has offered targeted support towards addressing balance of payments challenges and supporting our local currency.

“For us in government, we intend to continue our discussions with ATI on other transactions that support the achievement of objectives within Ghana’s Agenda 2030,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.

BY KINGSLEY ASARE

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