Despite Africa’s great diversity of cultures and climates, countries on the continent often speak the same language when it comes to tackling common development challenges. Senegal and Uganda recently did just that, teaming up to exchange best practices to boost agricultural productivity and employment on both sides of the continent.
I witnessed this knowledge exchange firsthand as I accompanied a Ugandan delegation led by Hon. Maria Kiwanuka, Uganda’s minister of finance, planning, and economic development, on its visit to Senegal. Their core mission was to seek out innovative ways to boost economic growth and create job opportunities for the country’s burgeoning youth, a challenge faced by Uganda and Senegal alike. As both countries continue to experience an increase in urbanization and population growth, and currently have economies that are predominantly based on agriculture, one common answer to this rising challenge is the enhancement of agricultural productivity and the development of agricultural value chains.
Senegal has sought to meet this challenge through the framework of the World Bank financed Sustainable and Inclusive Agribusiness Development Project which proposes to include smallholder farmers in the development of agribusiness and large scale agriculture investments. Mrs. Kiwanuka was keen on hearing from her Senegalese counterparts about the approach of this new and innovative project, and how Uganda can empower their smallholder farmers through a similar project, the Agriculture Cluster Development Project. This project is currently under preparation for World Bank support and seeks to increase agricultural productivity and enable Uganda to become the food basket for East Africa.
Uganda’s agriculture sector employs nearly 70% of the country’s population, making it imperative that any kind of growth and development in the sector be inclusive. As the country seeks to expand and create new value chains, Uganda was looking particularly at how Senegal has advanced in this domain. Smallholder farmers in Senegal have formed a government supported organization called the Senegalese Organization for the Promotion of Local Development to help them engage in consultations with the other value chain actors as equal partners.
This organization has been instrumental in the emergence of viable public/private sector/producer partnerships (PPPPs) in tomato, cereal and vegetable oil value chains in the country, and represents a responsible agricultural investment model that was noted as a critical take-away by the Ugandan delegation. The delegation appreciated how collective action has transformed smallholder farmers from being stakeholders in commodity value chains to being shareholders in the value chains, and the role that agribusiness has played in this.
This rich government to government exchange was initiated and funded by the World Bank Institute’s South-South Experience Facility, a multi-donor trust fund that enables the sharing of development experience and knowledge among World Bank client countries.
Mrs. Kiwanuka appreciated the World Bank’s role in facilitating these knowledge exchanges, requesting additional support to “undertake a similar visit to Ghana and Nigeria to learn from their experiences in advancing post-harvest handling and value addition of specifically perishable and bulky products such as cassava.”
It’s clear that there is a growing interest among countries from across the world to explore new ideas and approaches to reach their development goals, learn from each other, and share positive experiences and solutions. With this recent study tour, Senegal and Uganda are leading the way when it comes to conducting knowledge exchanges in Africa amongst Africans.