Mont Febe Hotel, Yaounde | July 20, 2012 | 11:00 AM
Official Launch of the African Cocoa Initiative and
Signing Ceremony for the Agreement between the
World Cocoa Foundation and the Ministry of Commerce
Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
Your Excellency the Minister of Commerce,
Your Excellency the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development,
Managing Director of the National Board of Cocoa and Coffee,
Representatives of the World Cocoa Foundation,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am sincerely honored to join you this morning to launch the African Cocoa Initiative program in Cameroon. As President Obama has said in the past, “This is a new moment of great promise” -- for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Last month, President Obama launched the U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which sets out four strategic objectives for U.S. engagement in Africa: strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development. This morning, I wish to highlight the U.S. government’s efforts to expand Sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity to strengthen economic growth through agricultural productivity in general and, more specifically, by raising rural incomes in the cocoa sector.
Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, The centrality of agriculture in African trade and economic growth is beyond dispute. At present, the majority of Cameroonians are employed in the agriculture sector, and agriculture constitutes the backbone of both Cameroon and Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy. It goes without saying, then, that the most effective way of improving Africans’ lives is to improve African livelihoods. Improvements in agricultural productivity mean more income and more food for more people. They mean better educational opportunities for children in rural areas and improved access to health care. More broadly speaking, they contribute to the country’s economic stability (through higher export earnings), environmental protection, and food security.
In West and Central Africa specifically, industrial tree crops, notably cocoa, coffee, oil palm, and rubber, have dominated agricultural exports. The cocoa sector is of particular interest with two million smallholder cocoa farmers producing approximately 70 percent of the world’s supply. It is also worth noting that U.S. cocoa imports from Sub-Saharan Africa totaled $1.1 billion during 2010. In Africa, cocoa production is dominated by four countries. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produce approximately 34 percent and 24 percent of the world output respectively. The other two important producers are Cameroon and Nigeria, each contributing approximately five percent of the world cocoa production. Producing countries like Cameroon derive a large proportion of their foreign income from cocoa.
Let’s look at Cameroonian production statistics: I am pleased to observe the increase in coca production in Cameroon, which rose 20 percent during the 2010/2011 growing season. With a strong, long-term projected demand, cocoa has great potential for farmers in humid tropical zones like Cameroon. However, achieving cocoa production’s potential in Cameroon requires improvements to productivity in order to make cocoa farming more economically attractive and environmentally sustainable.
The African Cocoa Initiative is a public-private partnership focused on supporting sustainable agriculture and food security on diversified cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. The program was officially launched in Accra, Ghana in March 2012 with the participation of a strong delegation from Cameroon. These joint efforts will reach at least 100,000 farm households over a period of five years. Key partners currently include the U.S Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Cocoa Foundation, and the Dutch Government through the Sustainable Trade Initiative.
Over a five-year period (2011-2016), we have set a goal for targeted commodity exports to rise dramatically from their 2010 benchmark of $7 billion to a cumulative total of $360 billion over the period. I am also pleased to note that the World Cocoa Foundation signed a letter of intent with the G8 to invest additional resources in the West and Central African cocoa sector. Additionally, the $5 million from USAID is matched, in this initiative by $5.3 million from a total of 14 companies, including Kraft, Mars, Hershey, Nestle, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Barry Callebaut, Lindt &Sprungli, Blommer, Continaf, Cargill, Olam, Ferrerro, Guittard, and Noble Resources. This provides an inspiring example of competitors partnering for a noble cause.
I am particularly excited about the African Cocoa Initiative because it recognizes the private sector as a catalyst for economic growth, with particular emphasis on bringing in private capital. The budget for this initiative stands at $13.8 million with plans to leverage at least $25 million from the private sector during the project life. The partnership with the private sector is part of the U.S. Government’s new and innovative approach, which includes combining development assistance with private investment.
To thrive, however, Africa’s agricultural sector will require far more than foreign government interventions. It will require foreign investment, domestic investment -- public and private; infrastructural improvements, access to capital, regional integration; cross-border trade that is unencumbered by trade barriers, access to affordable inputs, affordable access to markets, improved technology (including adoption of genetically modified seed), and a favorable business environment.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, Our goals are ambitious, as they should be for an issue that goes to the heart of U.S government’s and the African Union’s development agenda. Yet, I am hopeful that our joint efforts will lead to long-lasting solutions that will ensure a sustainable cocoa industry, a thriving ecosystem, and ultimately improve the income and security of smallholder farmers. May we succeed in our efforts and may we settle for nothing less.