An international agricultural research program plans to work with the African Union to increase agricultural research and productivity on the continent. The goal is to improve the lives of Africans by reducing poverty and hunger, improving health and nutrition, and effecting permanent food security across the continent.
The CGIAR Consortium (formerly known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) has partnered with the African Union to bring together 15 of the world's leading agricultural research centers and programs. some critics and officials, however, are questioning whether this collaboration will yield the results it is proposing, and whether it is actually a partnership that will benefit the continent.
According to Maurice Bolo, Director of the Scinnovent Centre – a Nairobi-based research and training organization focused on science and innovation – such collaboration raises a number of potentially challenging issues. He believes the collaboration will further damage intra-Africa cooperation or impede African governments from working together to achieve a common goal. How so? Perhaps Bolo suspects that the funds given to the African Union to execute such work could give too much power to African governments, which in turn could prevent their countries from development and also hinder market competitiveness.
The apprehension could also derive from the possibility that CGIAR Consortium could be a threat to the national security of African countries that adopt the programs if they are mainly used by investors for political rather than economic purposes. From Bolo’s perspective, one may also speculate that the lack of good governance, transparency, accountability and internal risk management issues are still the most important challenges facing governments in Africa.
On the other side of the coin is Piers Bocock- director of knowledge management and communications at the CGIAR Consortium- who deeply believes that such collaboration will first and foremost “facilitate the sharing of existing scientific and technological breakthroughs.”
Secondly, Bocock believes it will develop capacity and knowledge will be shared between investors and researchers in Africa. While many may argue that there are risks for investors everywhere in the world, many like Bocock strongly avows that this partnership will support the efforts of African research institutes at the country, sub-regional and continental level and it will transform as well as advance science-based agricultural and technology agendas.
Many who support the collaboration also believe that in Africa, political instability and lack of good governance, transparency and accountability are becoming less of an issue as they were in the past. This notion is more often demonstrated with the increase of African states conducting successful elections, which have resulted in stable political systems within the continent.
Africans can indeed benefit from the alliance between CGIAR Consortium and the African Union. If properly executed, it could enhance economic growth for several countries, and will create significant wealth creation opportunities as well as encourage intra-Africa investments.
As I sat in front of my computer screen, gazing and pondering on this issue, my only response regarding both parties perspectives, was – only time would tell., and that is a fact we can all agree on.