Linear agricultural policy approaches that should not spill over into 2020

A couple of questions can motivate African policy makers to think critically and reflect about possible starting points for transforming African agriculture from 2020 and beyond. There is no longer any doubt that most imported policy recommendations have failed to fully develop African economies. To that end, as 2020 beckons African agricultural economists and policy makers should ask themselves hard but very authentic questions if they are to really contribute positively to meaningful development.

More value addition in production zones

In spite of development agencies working in rural Africa for decades, agricultural commodities have continued to flow from rural to urban centres for value addition. The year 2020 should see a reversal of this unfortunate trend. If development agencies were really focusing on development, by now Zimbabwean farmers would be value-adding sunflower at local business centres and growth points like Gokwe, Magunje, Muzarabani, Chitekete and many others closer to farming areas.  Engineers should have designed appropriate medium scale machinery that use diesel, hydro or solar power.

Each household that produces sunflower would be getting its allocation of cooking oil and animal cake with excess cooking oil finding its way into urban markets where it would out-compete expensive cooking oil from corporates. That is the kind of transformation African economies want as opposed to following the colonial route where raw materials used to travel to cities only to come back into rural areas as unaffordable finished products.  Stock feed from sunflower cake can stimulate other value chains like piggery and cattle production. These are also pathways for introducing appropriate technology as well as other business opportunities around solar energy and relevant customized infrastructure.

Producing and selling raw commodities directly to the market has only guaranteed average profits for farmers for decades.  For instance, there is no reason why potato crisps cannot be produced in production zones such as Nyanga in Zimbabwe. It is not sustainable to continue persuading farmers to produce for contractors and the fresh market because they will eventually stop due to skewed business terms.  Why are farmers being persuaded to aggregate groundnuts and deliver to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) only for peanut butter processing companies to pick those nuts from GMB and produce peanut butter which is then sold back to groundnut producers?  Peanut butter can easily be produced at local business centres like Munengiwa Enterprises in Gokwe South.  This is how African countries can reduce urban unemployment as young people go back to rural areas to utilize cheap land, water and other resources. That will be the genesis of true economic transformation backed by rural industrialization.

Why should salted Maputi be produced in cities when it can easily be produced in rural business centres like what is happening at Chinehasha business centre in Chiweshe community of Zimbabwe? In what mimics toll-value addition, a local business person is processing maize grain into Maputi for local farmers who simply bring their maize grain for roasting into Maputi for a small fee and they take back their processed Maputi for school children’s tuck. More groundnuts are added into the maputi unlike in cities where a few grains of groundnut are added to Maputi (Kungonyunyurudza).  

Why should high quality sugar cane come all the way from Honde Valley and Murewa to Mbare in Harare for raw consumption with no attempts to produce sugar at source?  Why are engineers failing to come up with small sugar mills?  Research could only look at the differences in sugar content between garden sugar cane which grows very well in the rainy season and industrial sugar cane produced through irrigation in Africa’s Lowveld.  Why should mango, tomatoes and other commodities travel 192km from Mutoko to Harare when Mutoko centre is becoming a town?  If you see green mealies travelling 604km from Chiredzi to Harare and farmers travelling 550km with commodities from Fig tree to Harare it’s a naked signal of poor market development in the country. There is no way such farmers will make money.

Business models hidden in plain sight

There are many examples of businesses that are keeping communities alive in many parts of Africa but are not receiving policy attention and support. Instead, policy makers seem interested in high profile interventions tied to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) yet commendable innovations are taking place at the grassroots. Why should goats and cattle travel more than 600km all the way from Binga for slaughter in Harare (Koala)?  There should be abattoirs in production zones and local levels.  Local farmers and communities are not enjoying offals, Mazondo and Musoro of their cattle because everything is taken to big cities.

Wheat from Jotsholo in Matebeleland North province is being delivered at GMB Aspindale in Harare (more than 800km away) only for bakeries from Marondera to come and pick wheat flour from Aspindale for baking bread which then finds its way back to Matebeleland North.  Only lazy thinking can fail to notice something really wrong with this arrangement. In addition, corporate bakeries tend to have too many overheads which prevent wheat farmers from being paid a fair price. Local bakeries do not have over-heads in the form of positions like CEO, Finance Manager, HR Manager, Distribution Manager and an army of managers below who all constitute an unsustainable over-head for a struggling economy.

Transformative potential of mass food markets

By ignoring the role of mass food markets, African countries are under-valuing their economies. That attitude must change in 2020. It is through mass markets that policy makers can see agricultural commodities transitioning from being luxuries to necessities. For instance, Africa’s fast food industry will not survive without potatoes.  The poultry industry will also go down if potato production and supply is negatively affected because chicken and chips has become a famous staple for the young generation. In addition, there is no potato crisps industry without potatoes.   The hospitality industry will be plunged into mourning if potatoes are not available.

More importantly, boiled potato and butternuts are becoming substitutes for porridge for young children. The high cost of wheat flour is raising the demand for tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Government can intervene by promoting breeding and multiplication of cheaper potato seed so that rural areas that are currently depending on mass markets which distribute potatoes from production zones can also start producing potatoes in their back yards and gardens the way sweet potatoes have been agronomized. There is no reason why NGOs that are supporting agriculture should continue ignoring potatoes that have meaningful economic, nutritional and social benefits.

Transforming African economies from the bottom

As demonstrated above, there is enormous potential for African countries to begin their transformation by supporting what is already working. While high profile project attract more buzz and media attention, they rarely translate into authentic and sustainable transformation including the promised employment creation. On the other hand, when fully supported, local communities can come up with appropriate solutions in their production zones.  Unfortunately, African policy makers have embraced predominantly western ideas about development. Their world view assumes community and traditional agricultural practices are less developed and therefore have to be integrated from the top into the so-called global economy irrespective of local contexts.

Yet the cost of inputs cannot be the same for Binga which is a dry area and Honde Valley which depends on fruits. As if that is not enough, national dialogue tends to attract representatives with no experience on what is happening on the ground. In 2020, African governments have to desist from moving information through protocols and statutory instruments which do not consider community voices. Africa will not be developed through a linear development model that rests on the perspectives and capabilities of elites at the expense of ordinary people’s sensibilities.

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com  / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

Mobile: 0772 137 717/ 0774 430 309/ 0712 737 430

The merits of a sectoral approach to developing African economies

Challenges facing each African economy are so many and so diverse that trying to address them all at once is like chasing too many hares and at the end failing to catch one. That is why taking a sectoral approach makes sense. For instance, there is no longer any doubt that agriculture is at the centre of most African economies except a few countries where mining and tourism competes with agriculture in terms of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For various reasons, agriculture tends to have a multiplier effect on other economic sectors

What is the entry point?

Absence of clear entry points in reviving agricultural sectors is a major challenge for many countries.  It is like trying to lift a large pole that has fallen. Do you start from the middle or the other end? This is worsened by the fact that policy makers are not deeply reflecting about their economies in order to draw lessons from the recent past. To that end, they find it difficult to balance the previous phase with the current phase. In Zimbabwe, for instance, the 1990s were characterized by high agricultural production from a few commercial farmers with millions of smallholder farmers being economic spectators.  Food security and export incomes were high but this was not enough to address economic and social injustices in which only a few people owned the means of production as well as markets.

The above scenario justified the land reform as a way of balancing economic and social justice. Land reform produced a lot of farmer categories like communal, A1, A2 and many others. After addressing economic injustices by redistributing land, an enduring question has remained: how can we use agriculture to trigger sustainable economic growth? What can we do to harvest the fruits of land reform?  Redistributing land should not be the end of the story. It is not about endless land audits and redistribution exercises. There is already too much land lying idle without evening talking about land to be repossessed from those under-utilizing it. 

It could even be better to leave some of the land fallow for future generations so that they decide how to use it at the appropriate time?  Future policy makers may decide to turn some of the land into plantations of indigenous fruits like masawu, matohwe, mazumwi and others, depending on new tastes and preferences.  Besides contributing to ecological imbalances, industrial agriculture is regrettably nudging policy makers to be in a continuous land acquisition and redistribution mode.  Yet the main focus should be about utilizing available land including water and other related resources. What kind of support is being given to farmers that are already doing well? Answering this question leads to solutions.

Agriculture still has better comparative advantages

Compared to other sectors like mining, agriculture has several advantages. Where in mining, individual actors are called panners or Makorokoza and thus criminalized, in agriculture smallholder farmers are part of value chains. Agriculture has multiple pathways through which ordinary people can become economic actors. You can start growing and selling commodities from your home. You don’t need a certificate of incorporation to begin selling your agricultural commodities as opposed to the gold sector where you only have to sell the minerals to registered buyers. Individuals who decide to participate in wildlife tourism without proper registration can easily be labelled poachers.

More importantly, agriculture has less barriers to citizen participation – that is where employment creation opportunities are abundant. African countries also have more control over agricultural commodities compared to processes through which minerals are priced, demanded and sold. The flexibility in the use of agricultural resources allows Africans to rotate crops and swiftly change land uses yet minerals are not that flexible.  When you are looking for diamonds you cannot begin expecting to see gold in the same mining claim. The flexibility associated with agricultural production has enormous potential to trigger economic revival and growth.

Start from what is alive and kicking

Each agro-based African country should start by fully assessing its economy and strengthening what is working.  For instance, in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, informal agriculture markets and smallholder farmers represent what is alive and can be revived at lower costs. These actors continue using available resources to produce food with no need for foreign currency. On the other hand, big processing companies are operating at below their capacity due to dependence on antiquated machinery and inadequate raw materials. In the same vein, production by large scale farmers that depend on irrigation is being hampered by persistent load shedding.

Another vibrant sphere is small scale value addition, for example peanut butter processing, mahewu industry, small scale oil expressing and juice making, among others.  These are producing diverse local food products anchored on dynamic demand. Conversely policy makers are listening to some urban middle class consumers who are complaining about the shortage of soft drinks that need foreign currency when ordinary people have moved on and are producing local beverages, cooking oil and other products that apparently have a growing market and do not need foreign currency. 

There is no reason why policy makers and financial institutions continue shying away from supporting the evolution of a big mahewu industry as opposed to supporting imported beverages that are losing market share to local beverages.  What is also alive and gaining traction is indigenous poultry which is quietly becoming an entire industry with powerful value chains. On the other hand, policy makers and development agencies are still obsessed with exotic poultry breeds. Building a strong indigenous poultry industry will it taking over from the broiler industry that is exerting pressure on maize and other resources required to manufacture broiler feed, some of which have a foreign currency component.

Not to be outdone is a resilient home-grown industry producing different categories of appropriate agricultural equipment in areas like Siyaso and other local industries that are fabricating metal and steel to produce what is needed and affordable – scotch-carts, wheel barrows, peanut butter processing machines, hammer mills and many others required by the new agriculture landscape and actors.

What informs national decisions and budgetary allocations?

While one assumes what is alive and kicking should be prioritized in national budgetary allocations, that is not the case. From national agricultural budgets, it is not clear how much goes to agriculture markets.  If we are to move activities and actors from where they are to the next level, there is need for a focused vision that answers questions like: when we upgrade existing agricultural markets, which levels are we going to?  It can’t be shopping malls and supermarkets that are smaller economic actors compared to informal markets. From a value chain perspective, what is the destination for promoting small grains? It should aim beyond consumption. 

As currently conceived, Zimbabwe’s command agriculture needs a clear vision beyond satisfying consumption needs.  For instance, the national maize consumption is said to be 1.8 million per annum.  But that estimation does not take into account several maize by-products like the burgeoning maputi industry or the green mealies industry.  If the maputi industry is taking 25% of the maize and green mealies 15% of the 1.8 million metric tons, it means only 55% of the 1.8 million metric tons is available for mealie meal.  This is where a maize-based planning is always found wanting because it focuses on sadza yet there are many other things happening.

Likewise, what formulae is used to determine national quantities of wheat consumed annually? To what extent do all African households need bread as part of their daily meals?  Everyone wants bread but not everyone can afford it.  Policy makers are not considering effective demand and willingness as well as ability. They just assume because everyone needs bread, more wheat should be produced or imported.  What id households have substituted bread with rice and other commodities of which a pot can feed a family of six satisfactorily more than a loaf of bread. Besides, bread needs other expensive additives like margarine, eggs and others while rice can be consumed simply with tomato soup.

Who benefits from soya bean command?  As long as there are few players in the oil processing industry, African policy makers need to be careful about continuing to spoon-feed monopolies.  It is better to promote small scale oil processing in farming areas and growth points. Besides broadening the competitive environment, this also encourages rural industrialization. There is a danger of pouring resources into reviving large scale processing companies that have reached their ceiling. Injecting resources into former big processing companies when production is low will tempt the companies to misuse the funds. When industries ask for foreign currency in order to continue functioning that is not a solution. The Grain Millers Association should not be given foreign currency to go around the globe importing grains when such resources are badly needed at production level.

The same effort directed at mechanization at production level should be extended along value chains.  What mechanization is happening and can be supported at the processing level? What are the requirements?  What is working? What products are being processed in the informal economy?  That is an indication of demand.  Indigenous fruits are available in abundance where they grow naturally.  How can we commercialize them to grow our economy? These are God-given answers to our challenges yet we are ignoring them, preferring formal food systems that provide inadequate solutions.

Re-imagining a new role for African trade promotion agencies

Zimbabwe’s ZIMTRADE is globe-trotting looking for export markets but it is not supporting clear pathways for turning smallholder farmers into exporters. The destination for the majority of smallholder farmers remains Mbare and other informal markets that are now congested. Does ZIMTRADE expect farmers to move commodities directly from Mbare to Angola, Namibia, India, Turkey and other external markets? At their level, informal markets are already facilitating cross-border regional trade where commodities move from Zimbabwe to Zambia, Malawi to Zimbabwe and Mozambique to Malawi and Zambia, among many other neighboring countries.

Institutions like ZIMTRADE should closely study these patterns and pathways and use them to develop fully-fledged regional trading processes unlike conducting studies about what is needed in different countries when such information can easily be provided by those countries through their embassies. In fact, the same information is supplied to all competing African countries and may not be a source of competitive advantage on its own. Strengthening the domestic trade footprint is more important than spending resources gathering information about what is needed in which country when such information becomes stale before any action is taken at the ground. It is through a robust sector by sector approach that sustainable pathways for reviving African economies can be achieved, including streamlining roles.

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com  / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

Mobile: 0772 137 717/ 0774 430 309/ 0712 737 430

Comparative analysis of imported knowledge and indigenous knowledge

Due to continuous dependence on imported western knowledge, most African countries have not invested in understanding their own local knowledges. For instance, while these countries continue to lament that they do not have foreign currency and advanced technologies, they are not taking time to reflect and compare what they have in abundance with what they lack. Once they do that they will discover how land, water, sunshine, forests and many other resources are more valuable than foreign currency.

 Imported Knowledge Indigenous Knowledge
Associated with academic education that alienate people from their local communities. The more one gets formally educated, the more s/he loses identity and roots. Embedded in local context, culture and identity – all these are baked into reliable routines.
Formal companies and corporates are a key feature of imported knowledge. SMEs and informal markets are dominant examples of indigenous entrepreneurs.
Cities are part of western knowledge as shown by infrastructure like roads, electricity and airports, among other Western structures in which imported knowledge is embedded.  Imported knowledge in cities draws on resources like culture, labor and natural resources from rural areas where unfortunately little value addition is happening using local knowledge compared to cities where western knowledge is largely used to add value to those resources.
Western knowledge is valueless without indigenous knowledge systems used to produce and safe-guard natural resources. You can bring the best technologies into cities but without commodity supplies from rural areas technologies are valueless.   Food system are generated from indigenous economies and brought into western knowledge for value addition.  The most important resources are culture, values and traditions. Valuing all these resources brings comparative advantages for African economies.
Western knowledge measures agricultural commodities through weighing – scales, kilograms, hectares, litres, etc. Commodities are also valued mostly in monetary terms to a point of saying a cow is worth so many US dollars. IKS uses buckets, baskets as well as human senses like taste, smell, touch, hear and sight that are more inclined to IKS. Instead of using monetary terms only, IKS has a lot of value related to social beliefs, economic beliefs and even tradition (if we sell a family bull, how will we replace it?). How do farmers value their commodities in order to come up with a price?
Cities talk in terms of unemployment. What do we mean when we say someone is unemployed? How can a city with 96% unemployment continue functioning? How is the city surviving with such high levels of unemployment? In rural areas such levels of unemployment or incapacity may be related to drought or floods. Rural communities are linked to natural resources and do not talk in terms of employment and unemployment at both individual and community. They speak more in terms of asset ownership in relation to agriculture as well as the needs of individuals and communities.
Imported knowledge talks in terms of free trade areas and selling of commodities but knowledge is not considered part of the economic and commodity focus. But there is no clarity on how knowledge traded as part of global trade just like using commercial trade of goods and services. African countries do not have specific avenues for tracking trading of knowledge between countries and commodities.   IKS has strong pathways for knowledge and information exchange combining natural resources, culture, religion, values and other critical factors.  
African countries have borrowed definitions of the economy and economic growth from imported knowledge. Much of economic growth uses indicators like employment creation, income levels and population growth as well as ICT penetration. But we don’t have knowledge as an indicator or component of economic growth.  IKS thrives on social indicators. Whereas the measurement of Western economies is based on economics, African growth paths are defined by social parameters. Social aspects, which we have not defined at the expense of social indicators include culture, tradition and the whole society. All this has its own growth paths from rural to urban areas.
Western platforms are meant to facilitate payment for commodities. The whole notion of platforms was meant for trading commodities without using cash but we have abused it by using it for trading money not commodities.  African countries now have a challenge around the adoption of technology. Mobile money is not an innovation because we have failed to put technology to good use or domesticate it to support our traditional transaction modes. 
Uses a dollar a day to measure poverty datum line. IKS uses social indicators like depression among men whose wives go to the diaspora or the small house effect on economic depression. These social indicators are directly linked to the indigenous economy. The roots of an indigenous economy and home-grown economy are social not economic factors.
Imported knowledge has become a public good and that is what African universities are investing in instead of venturing into the new and unknown African knowledge. The business cycle for pure knowledge has reached a ceiling and could be seen in the form of sales going down. A major advantage with Africa is that much of the knowledge is yet to be unearthed and has a lot of value. For Africa it’s more about coping this knowledge than creating new knowledge using new inventions.  Wisdom is the basis of the economy.
Defines growth as turning land into buildings like sky scrapers for investors or markets. IKS leaves prime land for producing food systems.  Growth should make IKS pure so that the world can come and learn from Africa on how to build an economic power house based on IKS.
Promotes monocultures in production, consumption and lifestyles. Restoring African culture is a good starting point. For instance, what makes a rural African country or district  unique? IKS also recognizes indigenous institutions like traditional leadership structures.   
Promotes continuous importation of raw materials and human resources from Africa IKS would rather invest in valuating our resources and knowledge and then we become champions of exports by selling our products not labor and add value to our commodities.
Believes in central policy making and resource management. IKS is conscious to the fact that devolution should not just be about political power. It is about identity and culture. Resources need to be managed at all levels including policy.  Devolution is about opening pathways to receive voices from all angles as well as innovations and initiatives that just need to be supported.
Imported scientifically proven knowledge may not change within the next five to 10 years. It represents a comfort zone for academics who are more interested in proven and reliable routines.  IKS recognizes that if we remain stuck with proven knowledge of the past, we will not improve. We have to go beyond and venture into the unknown while building on what works well.  

The power of mastering the knowledge value chain

Few initiatives are as important as paying attention to the interface between formal and informal knowledge as well as Western and African knowledge. Processes are critical and so is external knowledge while relationships are important in gaining knowledge.  There is no longer any doubt that African countries need a collaborative knowledge base driven by more than 80% of the local people. That is why a clear understanding of the knowledge value chain is critical. It is important to appreciate what you have and try to improve on your weaknesses. While academics find it easy to theorize from a distance, development is about addressing equity and superiority issues between the state and ordinary people, young people and poor people. Formal and informal economies have different knowledge systems and processes. There are also different processes between the public and private sector.

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com  / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

Mobile: 0772 137 717/ 0774 430 309/ 0712 737 430

Yes, Indigenous Knowledge Systems have a distinct flavor

Some intellectuals have been suggesting that knowledge is the same everywhere, so it is wrong to speak in terms of indigenous knowledge as if is distinct from all other knowledges. Such views are far from the reality on the ground. There is definitely a difference between knowledge found in academic circles and ordinary people’s knowledge used by communities to innovate and cope with daily challenges. Although overlaps are common, it is very possible to separate indigenous knowledge from all other knowledge’s .

Pros and cons of imported knowledge

There is no doubt that imported knowledge has made some positive differences in many developing countries especially in the areas of automotive engineering, aviation and medicine. But there have also been notable failures.  For instance, imported knowledge in the form of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is on the verge of redundancy because it is failing to contextualize African content. It is a remarkable myth that the entire African memory can be digitized.  In spite of the hype surrounding mobile money, African countries have largely failed to marry brick and mortar financial systems with mobile money. Consequently, mobile money now causes massive unemployment to professionals that have absorbed imported knowledge while creating transitory employment for mobile money agents. 

In any case, business models anchored on exploiting poor masses are not sustainable. Why should low income communities in countries like Zimbabwe incur the highest mobile money costs and a whole finance minister defines that as progress?  We do not have economic models that fully embed the African ecosystem.  The main dilemma in all African countries is that policy makers have reached a point where they think money is the most important commodity that should substitute all levels of thinking. It is as if there is no business when there is no money irrespective of the abundance of resources like good soils, climate and water. It is all about the search for foreign currency.

Indigenous knowledge is more of a contextual characterization

eMKambo is not suggesting that developing countries have a monopoly on what is considered indigenous. In every country, whatever has thrived over years and has built pathways of binding and sharing knowledge has become indigenous. An outsider will need years to understand that knowledge. Africans who go to live in the United Kingdom find indigenous knowledge systems in that country.

Where you encounter indigenous knowledge systems, you cannot avoid learning in order to be a useful participant in existing knowledge systems. Africans are struggling to learn imported science because it is not indigenous to us while people who grew up with science easily understand it. On the other hand, when a European visits an African village like Gokwe and sees people cooking sadza, s/he has to learn how those people prepare their food.  The notion of literacy came through the Western world while much of our African practices and knowledge systems remain undocumented.  That is why most African communities continue to thrive on raw knowledge.

From indigenous knowledge to patents

Western knowledge might be indigenous in countries of its origin but it has unfortunately been entirely moved from being indigenous to privatized patented knowledge. For instance, people who write books end up with exclusive copyrights to the book. Those who invent machines also privatize their knowledge for profit. Fortunately in much of Africa, knowledge is still public information/knowledge.  For example, African traditional courts do not use previous cases to make judgements the way judiciary systems imported from the West depend on legal documents and use precedents after reading cases of previous judgments.  In Africa, traditional leaders use wisdom acquired over years, not by one person, but by the whole traditional judiciary system (Dare). They understand values, norms, extenuating circumstances, among many other aspects surrounding court cases.  That is why they sometimes relate some cases to Ngozi or the avenging spirit.

The entire traditional leadership system has acquired collective intuitions of what informs people’s different behaviors including inclinations towards different kinds of crimes. Some crimes can be traced beyond an individual to the entire clan that has to appease past wrongs for the benefit of the future. On the other hand, imported judiciary systems reduce complicated social issues to an individual who should go to jail for crimes that may be beyond him/her. Yet on the positive side, a skilled person may be understood to have acquired his/her skills from his/her grand fathers who may have been craftsmen or hunters. If they carefully borrowed from African traditional systems, conventional anti-corruption commissions in Africa would reach more meaningful conclusions that build cohesive societies.

Indigenous knowledge as intangible heritage

Most of what has been explained above comprise soft elements and behaviors that become a collection of facts and knowledge. For example, as the rainy season approaches, some African communities are able to predict the season using their own local signals. They do not use using modern gadgets like those used by the meteorological services but they arrive at correct conclusions using their own interpretations independent of science. While formal learning is about absorptive capacity, indigenous knowledge systems are part and parcel of experiential learning embedded in practical wisdom. Indigenous knowledge systems are also part of ecosystems and pathways of how people live, relate, interact, what to do and what to avoid and, not just about how they communicate.  Also critical is how relationships are built and strengthened as well as how communities find solutions to emerging problems before looking outside. Not every solution can come through external investors.  What about local investors?

Concentration at source

More importantly, indigenous knowledge systems tend to be concentrated more at the source and get weaker as you move away from the origin or source.  For example, Binga district in Zimbabwe has a lot knowledge on Tonga culture and language but such knowledge weakens as you move away from the district because it gets diluted with imported knowledge. At national level indigenous knowledge systems are weaker in cities but stronger in rural areas that remain strongholds of African culture. 

That is why building home-grown African economies should start with identifying where indigenous knowledge systems are coming from and track them all the way to the source. For instance, tracking banana production knowledge to Honde Valley enables tapping into opportunities for using local knowledge. Rather than continue with imported notions of development, African countries should embrace a home-grown economic development agenda, starting from where knowledge is strongest unlike trying to extract agrarian solutions from cities that have been diluted by imported knowledge.

Just as technology providers want you to come to the source at some point, for instance when a Combine Harvester breaks down, the strengths of indigenous knowledge systems is at the source.  While western knowledge patents are at individual level, indigenous knowledge systems are patented at community level. Community members know what to give out and what not to give. Even at household level, some knowledge remains classified. Indigenous knowledge systems become more classified at the source.

The role of African embassies in promoting indigenous knowledge and food systems 

Currently African embassies in Western countries seem to focus more on politics and foreign policies but are silent on promoting African identity embedded in food systems and indigenous knowledge systems.  Ideally exports should be in the form of our own indigenous commodities. We may think we are getting valuable foreign currency from exporting peas but this may be happening at the expense of other more lucrative commodities. Africans should not continue using their resources to produce products that satisfy foreign food systems and tastes. Yet if foreign consumers acquire tastes for African products, African countries will become less vulnerable to international prices. When there is a glut Africans will just lower production. But where African countries produce food for foreign consumers there is no control over prices because foreign can just decide to get the same commodities from different African countries with the same climate.  This is how African countries are made to compete against each other for external tastes.

Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com  / charles@emkambo.co.zw / info@knowledgetransafrica.com

Website: www.emkambo.co.zw / www.knowledgetransafrica.com

Mobile: 0772 137 717/ 0774 430 309/ 0712 737 430