The food industry increasingly has been eyeing African countries as potential ingredient producers, with many multinational companies adopting a business model that integrates small-scale farmers into their supply chains. This has the potential to enrich developing economies, but there are also risks, Graziano da Silva told delegates at the Second Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development Forum in Vienna.
He stressed the importance of supporting industrial development beyond agriculture to ensure sustainable systems.
“We need to build and strengthen their links to ensure sustained economic development,” he said. “We can do this by developing agribusiness systems and adding value to the food chain through the service sector.
“But value has another important dimension in food systems: it needs to mean more nutritious and healthy foods, produced sustainably.
“I would also like to add that robust industry systems are important to spur economic development and contribute to food security. However, history shows us that industrialization is very complex.”
According to an OECD analysis, North Africa hosts the highest concentration of Fortune 500 agri-food companies, at 52, followed by 50 in Southern Africa, 25 in West Africa, 17 in East Africa, and 13 in Central Africa.
However, there is potential for a strong, sustainable agribusiness sector even in landlocked developing countries, Graziano da Silva argued.
“Being a landlocked developing country does not condemn you to food insecurity,” he said at an event this week at the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, also in Vienna. “There are ways forward, and success stories to inspire action.”
These countries tend to have less arable land, but he pointed to the examples of Mali and Kazakhstan, which have halved both their total number and proportion of hungry people, despite being landlocked.