INSIGHTS: Africa’s future ... can biosciences contribute?

The collection shows that the grand challenge of the rights of all to food, highlighted by Phil Bloomer of Oxfam, is being addressed by Africans for Africa, as Calestous Juma of Harvard shows in the first essay. Of course, it is a long and difficult way ahead. Africa is a continent of 54 countries where the large majority of farmers are smallholders and a crucial challenge is to improve low crop yields by empowering the farmers themselves. ‘Women farmers are the pillars of African agriculture’, says Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), and over two-thirds of all women in Africa are employed in the agricultural sector and produce nearly 90 per cent of food on the continent. They are responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families.
African countries are currently among the fastest growing economies in the world and Africa’s readiness for transformation is enriched by its natural resources, whether land and minerals, solar radiation in North Africa and the Sahara, the huge potential for food production in the central and eastern regions and Southern Africa, or the unrivalled diversity of environments and people. Essays speak of the crucial role of high-quality seeds for smallholder farmers. How certain African countries became early adopters of new technologies, and how industry responded to new opportunities. How the skills of the business world can be combined with public initiatives for mutual benefit. How world-class research can be developed locally, and train the next generation of African plant breeders. Why African youth holds the key to the future and needs to be inspired about the role of biosciences in African farming.