A consultant of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Birhanu Teshome says research on agriculture can help improve the declining contribution of agriculture in most African countries and reduce the food import bill. Teshome, who is the former President for Ethiopian Statistical Association told Business Trends that, African countries need to pay more attention to the declining figures on agriculture.
“Focus on agriculture is declining even the reporting on agriculture is declining. Therefore, we need to pay more attention to this if we want to improve food production and diversify the economy,” he said. He said, African countries need more research and provide quality statistics to relevant bodies- as this will help policy makers to make good decisions that will help improve food production.
“We need to produce food for own countries, but nowadays there is a shift on reliance as countries are now relying on processed food and this is not healthy for the economy. We need to look at the food we are importing and why are we importing them,” said Teshome.Agriculture’s contribution to GDP in Botswana declined to P347.50 million in the first quarter of 2017, from P363.50 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The current figures from Statistics Botswana indicate that agriculture’s contribution to GDP averaged P339.56 million from 2003 until 2017, reaching an all time high of P432.80 million in the second quarter of 2010 and; a record low of P182.80 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. However, agriculture contribution to GDP has been slowly declining from 40 percent in 1966 to the current three percent.
Cost of food in Botswana increased by 4.30 percent in June 2017. Food inflation in Botswana averaged 7.91 percent from 2002 to 2017, reaching an all time high of 25.11 percent in October 2008 and a record low of 0.70 percent in December 2015. Teshome also explained that agriculture statistics are affected by various challenges including climate change, lack of expertise and focus on mineral sector.
He said statisticians need to be trained in order to come up with quality statistics. “We rely much on agriculture so we need to have reliable statistics so we can have good estimates,” he said. Speaking during the Agriculture Statistics workshop last week, Statistician General Anna Majelantle said there are challenges regarding provision of quality statistics citing among-others lack of expertise and skills in specific sector statistics.
She said African National Statistics Offices and development partners continue to collaborate in the development and implementation of statistics frameworks to provide expertise and skills for the improvement of various sector statistics. “The training component of the Action Plan for Africa is currently being implemented by the African Centre for Statistics of the Economic Commission for Africa with the technical support from the African Working Group on statistical training and human resources,” she said.
The Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics was established and endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2010. Its objective was to provide a framework that will help improve the availability and quality of statistics on agriculture and food security in the world.
‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’
Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.
She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.
“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.
She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.
She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala
MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH
Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.
Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.
“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.
Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.
The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.
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