Creating jobs via agriculture requires broad-based changes

10Sep 2020
The Guardian
Creating jobs via agriculture requires broad-based changes

​​​​​​​WITH foreign investors looking outside their countries for more profitable investment opportunities, it is time that Africa started responding as growing segment of the world market, the continent whose potential is virtually untapped, despite some growth poles here and there.

One such country is Brazil, despite the fact that it has a large hinterland with a breadth of resources, and agri-business is being pushed by leaps and bounds. Yet there are reasons they seek investment in Africa, like many others.

Reports from Maputo, where a Brazilian delegation was visiting just as it did in Tanzania a few days earlier, said that the delegation was optimistic about Brazil helping Mozambique use agriculture to help boost job creation. There are considerable similarities in what the delegation saw in Mozambique and what we have here, thus a fact check can help bring up areas of relevance in what they discussed, as regards what we are trying to do as well. One feature is interest of foreign investors in what is known as agro-ecological potential, as it provides considerable investment opportunities, broadly.

A key stakeholder in the visit of the Brazilian delegation in Mozambique was Standard Bank Mozambique (SBM), a UK-based bank which has intimate links with Tanzania’s largest investment banks, namely Standard Chartered Bank (T) and Stanbic Bank. The delegation was by contrast mainly the guests of business associations, which implies a difference of focus in the two visitations. When top banks are involved the focus is intense investment that often revolves around ability to purchase existing concerns or buy large share segments, but when it is business groups, it is market openings.

Remarks that the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects in the Rovuma basin will ultimately place Mozambique on the list of the five largest producers and suppliers of this energy resource in the world, and that it holds the potential to boost various other sectors in the country, particularly in agribusiness, ought to be of considerable interest to us as well. We also have extensive gas resources either onshore or just offshore, a pipeline that supplies gas to Dar es Salaam and a stalled liquefaction project. One presidential contender has raised the matter in a speech but clearly it is a bit complicated.

Standard Chartered Bank (T) is the only large commercial bank to have loaned upwards of one trillion shillings to the government for the construction of the standard gauge railway. Stanbic Bank on the other hand, as far back as 2006, led a bank consortium to put up 350bn/- for lending to the state power supply corporation, TANESCO. There is no doubt that these banks sit on large amounts of resources which if there is a commercial opening they would be unleashed on the economy to create many jobs.

One feature about the gas economy in the southern regions is that the residents there enjoy virtually free power supply and a host of other amenities, like free schooling and medication. Were it that a credible land ownership cadre is taken up, like surveying all lands and either the banks or the government pay existing residents at rates comparable to what the government did in Dodoma region to ease expansion of the capital city, an investment zone could be created. When the gas industry acts as host to energy needs and the banks consolidate land trusteeship, plenty can be done as for industry.

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