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Africa’s growing economic muscle tells only part of the story

earth-institute-photo1Africa is making progress economically, according to a new report by McKinsey & Company.  With combined gross domestic products across the continent of 1.6 trillion dollars in 2008, Africa is on par with Brazil. Improved political stability and economic reforms seem to be part of the reason, and as Africa continues to expand its presence into the global economy, things will get even better, the report says.  In urban areas, where 40 percent of Africans now live, the growing number of consumers will fuel long-term growth, which is occurring in all areas, including natural resources, trade, agriculture, communications, and manufacturing. But, the report notes that there are disparities among countries and that rural poverty continues to be a challenge. An important way out of poverty, the report says, may be through agriculture—a key to raising rural incomes.

The rural poor are an important focus of the work of the members of Aid for Africa, and agriculture is an important component of that work. Millennium Promise for example, along with the Earth Institute, is working in rural areas in ten African countries to increase food production, improve education, prevent and treat disease, and provide access to safe and reliable water. By jump-starting broad economic growth in rural areas, the idea is to feed into broader national goals.  A Glimmer of Hope undertakes an innovative and integrated approach to poverty reduction in rural Ethiopia, one village at a time. Village Enterprise provides the means to create income-generating business in rural Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. In an innovative partnership with the government of Sierra Leone, World Hope International is working both to bring foreign investment to the port areas of Sierra Leone and to champion agricultural and water projects in other parts of the country and throughout Africa. Agricultural development and self sufficiency are critical to the Malawi Project ‘s efforts to help empower the rural poor in Malawi, where agricultural improvements in recent years have been stunning.

There are many barriers to improving agriculture in rural Sub Saharan Africa, but, as the McKinsey report suggests, Africa has 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land and the low crop yields on the land in use suggest they could be much higher. Poverty reduction efforts that include agricultural development are a natural.