By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Steps for the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the agribusiness sector in Africa have been prescribed by a UNIDO chief.
According to Mr. Li Yong, the Director-General of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), there must be a vision and strategy.
“Develop policies that support Small and Medium size Enterprises in the agriculture sector, to begin with,” Yong recommended in an interview.
He cited China’s industrial development model as a good example.
He said that in China, the number one document released at the beginning of the year was a plan to support the development of agriculture.
The second, he disclosed, is to take concrete measures.
“The third , support with financial resources, capacity building and training.
“Fourth, provide an environment for the SMEs to thrive. Lastly, link the agricultural sector to agro-industry, agribusiness and manufacturing.
Yong stressed that agriculture is a very important sector for Africa, and, therefore, pointed out that job creation element in the sector requires innovation.
“If you try to grow wheat, corn, fruits, etc without connecting to agro-processing food packaging and the global value-chain, thetre is very little opportunity for job creation,” the UNIDO leader elaborated.
He opposed the argument in some quarters that claim that the introduction of modern technology to Africa’s agro-business would result to loss of jobs. “I don’t accept this argument, because farming services connect to the market,” he explained, adding: “With agro-processing, farmers have more time and capacity to do thingsd beyond planting and growing crops.”
He observed that Africans can be innovative, noting that cocoa-producing African countries that used to export cocoa beans are currently producing some chocolate products locally. He used Ghana as an example to buttress his assertion.
Yong expressed the willingness of UNIDO to support countries doing so with laboratory, equipment and technicians to enable them to export to Europe and Asia.
“We have traditional toolboxes, including vocational training. Capacity training is a very popular UNIDO programme,” he emphasized.