Olam International is one of the world's largest food and agribusiness companies, operating across 20 countries in Africa alone. Co-founder and Group CEO Sunny Verghese (pictured opposite) explains why he is optimistic about growth on the continent, how Olam is helping to ensure the quality of domestic food production and how it is nuturing African talent
What are the growth opportunities in Africa --and what are the challenges?
There are many indicators that give cause for optimism that Africa will be a global economic growth engine. Six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and the sub-Saharan region itself could generate a GDP of $29 trillion by 2050.
What is just as heartening are the strong examples of cooperation and collaboration across the countries in Africa. All 54 countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which at one time looked to be a challenge. Transformative frameworks, such as the African Union Agenda 2063 and UN SDGs, are shifting how decision-makers think and act on inclusive social, political and economic growth. Underpinning this, of course, is a growing pool of young talent determined to seize the initiative for their generation.
As with any other region around the world, Africa has its own challenges. Firstly, we must ensure food security in Africa in terms of availability, accessibility, affordability and adequacy of the food required for the fastest growing population in the world. Africa spends over $25bn annually on food imports and malnutrition costs its economies 3%-16% of GDP each year. Secondly, in terms of sustainability, all regions except North Africa are unlikely to meet the UN SDG targets on time, even if most are on track to reach SDG 13 on climate action.
That said, I believe there is also often a misconception that Africa's problems are "too hard" to solve. Well to those skeptics I would like to say that Olam was born in Africa and thw world has seen what has been achieved by us in Africa and our success in building a global leadership business from Africa. Moreover, we intend to be invested in Africa for the long term. I am confident that the opportunities in Africa far outweigh the challenges.
What specifically makes you optimistic for African agriculture?
I am encouraged by the increasing willingness of African governments to discuss where they are advancing, and lagging, so as to grow together. Forty-seven countries have signed on to the Comprehensive...