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AFRICA’S impressive gross domestic product growth will never reduce poverty and bring food security without value addition and beneficiation to the vast array of natural resources, a senior Government official said. Head of Fiscal Planning and Investment in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Dr Desire Sibanda said that value addition to Africa’s raw materials remains a daunting problem for the continent while food security remained a major socio-economic issue the continent needed to deal with.

Dr Sibanda said this in his opening speech at the United Nations Economic Commission for Southern Africa in Victoria Falls during an expert group meeting on agro-development for food and national security. Agricultural sector performance has a g influence on the economic growth, employment, demand for other goods, economic stability, food security and overall poverty of SADC member states.

Speaking at the same occasion, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa — ECA, Southern Africa Regional Director Mr Said Adejumobi called for the active involvement of the state in agri-industry.

“Agro-industrial development cannot take place without the state. Not for state to be a producer, but for the state to actively support and, if need be, subsidise the agricultural sector,” Mr Adejumobi said.

He argued that subsidies to agriculture were done all over the world.

Findings of a research paper on agro-industry development for food and nutritional security in Southern Africa reveal that the sector only accounts for 17 percent of regional GDP while most countries in the region are rated food and nutrition insecure with prevalence rates of above 30 percent.

This is despite the fact that agriculture is the dominant economic sector in the SADC with approximately 70 percent of its population depending on agriculture for food, income and employment.

Citing the report, Dr Sibanda expressed concern that the “SADC region is home to some of the countries with the highest hunger rates in the world, including one with about 48 percent of its population undernourished”.

The two-day expert meeting convened by ECA Regional Office for Southern Africa is expected to provide concrete recommendations on how to strengthen the agro-industry sector through, among others, partnerships, best practices and lessons from other regions. An issues paper on the same subject is the main document for discussion.

Over 60 experts from Southern Africa including agro-industry and agribusiness experts from government institutions, the private sector, SADC institutions, civil society and academia, among others, are participating in the meeting.

Source : The Herald