The business potential of Africa’s economy
An interview with Cor van Beuningen, Director of Food First/Floriade – The Netherlands
EMRC International interviewed Cor van Beuningen, Director of FOOD FIRST/Floriade, in preparation for the Africa Finance & Investment Forum to be held in Utrecht from 17-19th June 2012. Hosted by Rabobank the core theme of the event will be ‘Financial inclusion through SMEs & Cooperatives’. The 3 day programme will focus on the business potential of Africa’s economy and the vital role that the continent plays towards boosting the private sector. AFIF this year associates itself with the UN’s “International Year of Cooperatives” and encourages partnerships and attracting investments in Africa.
EMRC: Please give us an overview of the mission guiding FOOD First?
Cor van Beuningen: FoodFirst is a Dutch non-profit coalition connecting a network of policymakers from business, government, academy and civil society. The purpose of FoodFirst is to put the food and agriculture issues at the heart of the political and public debate.
FoodFirst-Floriade 2012 is a series of six conferences to be held at the Floriade 2012, addressing the most relevant aspects of the global food challenge with 175 selected representatives of business, academy, government and social organizations. The purpose of FoodFirst-Floriade 2012 is to come up with a series of policy recommendations that lead to a new multi-stakeholder approach to global food security, including the potential contribution of agriculture in fostering inclusive growth and in dealing with the climate change challenge. Dates and subjects of these conferences are:
24 April - Cooperatives, 8 May – Sustainable Food Production,
29 May – Africa & the Food Problem, 19 June - Africa & the Global Food Challenges,
28 ugust - Food & Health, 2 October - Urban Agriculture
EMRC: 2012 has been declared the ‘International Year of Cooperatives’. What is the impact of establishing a ‘cooperative model’ in the sustainable economic/food growth in Africa?
CvB: The Cooperative enterprise is the vehicle for connecting small and medium farmers to the market; both upstream, to the markets for finance and insurance, and downstream, to the markets for food and other agricultural products. It is however a demanding and complex model, which presupposes both entrepreneurial spirit and trust amongst its members.
EMRC: How do you envision the food sector evolving in Africa in the short and long term? What role do cooperatives and SMEs have to play in this sector?
CvB: Africa’s food production is bound to boom in the coming decade. It will supply the larger part of the extra demand for food at the global level. The question is who will benefit; are African producers up to this challenge / opportunity? Sustainability would demand that African small and medium producers, organized in cooperative enterprises, are the ones who carry this development; but in order to make this happen, many actors should work together and act now.
EMRC: What do you expect African/ Dutch participants will get out from the Africa Finance & Investment Forum – Food First/Floriade 2012 event?
CvB: A renewed sense of urgency, combined with an acute sense of opportunity, and eyes wide open for the immediate benefits of cooperation in the quadrangle of business, science, government and civil society, between African and European/Dutch partners.
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