Across the globe, universities play a significant role in a nation’s socio-economic development. They contribute to the advancement and dissemination of new knowledge. Umezuruike Linus of the Opara Faculty of AgriSciences, at Stellenbosch University, in South Africa, suggests that African universities must take up the mantle of reflective, critical and evidence-based analysis to allow a sustainable industrial agriculture to emerge in Africa.
Currently, African agriculture has the lowest yield and productivity in the world, says Opara in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Postharvest Technology and Innovation. He adds that Africa as a whole has very poor food security and this coupled with the highest rate of youth unemployment suggests a significant problem with a solution waiting to be tapped. “Transforming smallholder agriculture into industrial agribusinesses is essential in reversing this trend,” Opara says. “To achieve these goals, curriculum reform and knowledge intensification, characterised by entrepreneurship, are needed to harness the economic potentials of existing and emerging innovative technologies for yield and productivity growth.”
Africa could have a modern agricultural revolution but it must make agriculture an attractive proposition for the educated youth of Africa looking to exploit their burgeoning entrepreneurial skills not in the “city”, but in deriving profits from investment in the “field”. Fundamentally, rather than the individual toiling away with their bare hands on near-barren land, a transformed African agriculture will allow the new generation of entrepreneurial farmers to compete and access local, regional, continental and even global markets. “A new and better Africa that is free from poverty, food insecurity and human indignity, and that contributes to global peace and security is achievable in our life time. The African university of the 21st century has an important role to play in transforming the predominantly subsistent and smallholder agriculture into profitable agribusinesses for inclusive economic growth,” concludes Opara.
Opara U.L. (2013). Perspective: The role of universities in transforming African agriculture for economic development – producing knowledge farmers and entrepreneurial leaders, International Journal of Postharvest Technology and Innovation, 3 (2) 207. DOI: 10.1504/IJPTI.2013.055853