ADVOCACY: Food for thought
G20 Issue

ADVOCACY: Food for thought

Throughout its history, the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development’s focus has been on food security, with agricultural investment, strong partnerships and considered campaigns all part of its delivery model

Diverse factors worldwide have contributed to the increase in food insecurity. In 2019, an estimated 135 million people were considered “acutely food insecure” – a notable increase of 22 million people from 2018. In the Arab countries, the food gap has reached $33.6 billion, with 50 million people considered to be suffering from food insecurity. There is colossal agricultural potential in Arab countries, where the total arable land is about 233.2 million hectares. However, only about 31.8% of this land is utilised, and agriculture only represents 4.2% of the total gross domestic product. In 1976, Arab world leaders combined forces to establish the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development. The headquarters were situated in Sudan, as it was considered to be “the bread basket of the world”. AAAID is the only pan-Arab financial institution with an independent legal entity and the vision to be a leader in the reinforcement of food security in the Arab world.

Over the years, AAAID has developed its business model around providing basic food needs through agricultural investment and development in Arab countries, with 21 contributing Arab member states, an equity capital amounting to US$1.1 billion and a total asset value of US$1.3 billion as of 2019. AAAID currently has 53 affiliate companies, whose activities are concentrated in the agricultural manufacturing sector at 50%, 23% in the livestock production sector, 23% in the plant production sector and 4% in the agricultural services sector. AAAID’s investments are distributed through diversified economic, financial and environmental spheres. Sudan hosts 66% of AAAID’s total investments, followed by Egypt at 6.2%, the United Arab Emirates at 5.6%, Iraq at 4.4%, Saudi Arabia at 4%, Oman at 3.4% and 10.4% in the remaining member states as per the investment opportunities and the comparative advantages available to the region.

Amplifying agricultural production

AAAID has deemed it crucial to amplify the activities related to agricultural production and trade in the Arab region, as the high domestic demand on basic food products is met with imported products from other countries. Consequently, AAAID improved its strategic plan and established a new strategy for agricultural investment. The new criteria are set based on benchmarking with best global practices to evaluate all investment opportunities before proceeding with any new project. The flexibility of the new strategy enables AAAID to respond to changes in a timely and appropriate manner.

Following its mission to provide basic food needs through agricultural investment and development in Arab countries, AAAID’s affiliate companies work in production of grains, meat, dairy, oils and sugar. Accordingly, AAAID created and implemented numerous sustainable models that assist in increasing production and crop productivity, promote socio-economic development, protect the environment and grow a skilled workforce through organising training and capacity-building programmes. One of the most recent programmes implemented is focused on ‘innovation and future foresight’, with the aim of achieving a qualitative and innovative shift for the Arab Authority in its fields of work and its internal and external activities. Future foresight determines the expected upcoming directions of AAAID and the opportunities and risks it carries, while innovation will help to respond to these opportunities and potential challenges in new ways and away from traditional methods, which in turn directs the Arab Authority to adopt modern applications that simulate accelerated future developments.

AAAID also implements programmes supporting women and small-scale farmers and producers through revolving loan programmes in rural areas of Sudan, Mauritania, Tunisia, Comoros and Egypt, among others, to grow corn, sesame, millet, peanut and other staple food crops. AAAID has been able to successfully elevate the productivity and output of thousands of farmers, with the number of beneficiaries, reaching more than 10,725 families and representing 58,557 families as of December 2019. There has also been a threefold increase in cultivated areas and productivity as a result of AAAID’s support to farmers in the application of modern agricultural technologies.

Several factors have ignited global unrest recently, including the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on different industries. As such, AAAID is relentlessly working to create a pioneering investment and technical model intended to support relevant establishments by offering investment incentives, granting advantages and concessions, supporting infrastructure development in project areas and creating a generally conducive investment climate for parties interested and involved in the agricultural sector.

Technology take-up

The first half of 2020 challenged individuals, businesses and institutions to redefine the concept and application of innovation and new technologies. Meanwhile, AAAID has been adamant in working towards the dissemination and proper utilisation of available modern technologies and methods involved in the field of agriculture. The efforts of the Arab Authority include developing projects, improving the quality of production and expanding the areas under cultivation. In that context, AAAID has established research stations in different member states that host some of its projects to apply new findings on agricultural production in the field. These programmes are classified under three major sectors:

Accelerated Innovation Processes: These depend on existing and recently invented technology that can be accessed and used by AAAID to transfer modern techniques, methods and technology.

Innovation and Cultural Research Stations: AAAID established 10 research stations, operated by qualified agronomists, aimed at conducting applied agricultural research to increase agricultural productivity. Results are then disseminated throughout AAAID’s affiliate companies and the communities in which it operates.

Gradual Innovation Processes: These are introduced starting with the origination of an idea to solve a problem or meet previously unfulfilled needs.

With more than 40 years of experience, the Arab Authority solidifies its position through building and growing relations and providing perceptive and promising investment opportunities that aim to optimise returns, all within a framework of professionalism, good governance and transparency. AAAID’s partnerships are supplemented through mutually driven goals that foresee a contribution to attaining food security. One of the ways AAAID advocates for agricultural investment is through participating in and organising impactful events that create a platform for all interested parties to come together and meet, present, discuss and decide on policies that have major effects on the direction of institutions, organisations and government entities in the field.