Africa faces its own food insecurity and while the continent has the potential to feed itself and the rest of the world, it currently lacks, in general, the skills, financial support as well as transport, storage and manufacturing infrastructure necessary for success in the agricultural industry. Although places like the Middle East might need Africa in order to ensure their own food security, Africa may need this investment in order to develop its own agricultural sector.
“Why not all of us dream of a better future? This better future can start from Africa and we can work collectively in order to be able to make this dream a reality as there is nothing more important than to attain food security,” he added. “I mean how many revolutions in the world have taken place due to people that are starving.”
So what does the UAE need from African governments?
Al Shirawi said that a partnership could be reached that benefits both sides, but only if both parties understand what the other needs in the end. Once the deal has been made, there has to be a level of trust that both sides will stick to it.
“Don’t tell me you need the following additional approvals, give us a check list that we can work from in advance so we can fulfil those requirements and pay the following fees, and if we do then you do not interfere in that activity. We will take care of the processes, we will create job opportunities, we will build the schools for those children of families that are working there, we will build clinics for their health requirements, we will build that infrastructure there, but you do not interfere in the process. Because every now and then – especially when heads of departments or different ministers take positions, or a different government takes place – you have to start the whole process from the beginning. Which will make the entire process futile.”
Al Shirawi also added that, from his side, they are willing to sit down with African leaders to discuss such partnerships, but they require the legal framework from their African counterparts.
“Any type of partnership has to be a win-win situation. Anything else would be a recipe for demise sooner or later… By creating such huge job opportunities and cash circulation within that zone, that by itself will create opportunities for [Africa] to establish additional and other businesses, and if a percentage [of agricultural produce] has to stay within Africa, let it be,” continued Al Shirawi.
Meat production is also something that Al Shirawi said he would like to see the UAE establish in Africa. He added that this would be beneficial for other sectors in Africa. “You will establish certain packaging or canning processes, which means you have to establish factories for those which means you have to have people who are trained to manage it and train the rest of the population in the operation.”
The Africa Global Business Forum will be held in Dubai at the beginning of May and will host discussions on food security and the opportunities in Africa’s agriculture.
“This is how I envision it. We do not have such an activity now but this is an activity I think is of paramount importance to Africa and it involves our own food security for the future.”