Dr. Patrick Kormawa is the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO’s) Sub-regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the African Union (AU) and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
He spoke with Abdallah el-Kurebe for EconomicConfidential at the 29th FAO Regional Conference for Africa in Abidjan, Core de I’Voire on the role of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in strengthening agriculture in the sub-region. Excerpts:
What is PPP in the context of the FAO?
The PPP is a formal relationship between the private sector entity and the public sector. The public sector is defined as the government (local, state or federal), depending on the relationship they want to establish with the private entity. Talking about Africa and perhaps Nigeria where PPP have been practised, the legal framework is clear enough to ensure that the private sector knows exactly its obligations vis-a-vis that of the public entity.
What have you identified as the major constraints of the PPP?
The number one major constraint is the problem of clarity of the legal framework, which ensures the private sector’s knowledge of its exact obligations and that of the public sector. The second constraint is the capacity in the public sector itself. You take an example wherein a government wants to partner with a large scale agricultural private investor; in most cases, the investor has more knowledge than the public sector and when they design the partnership, because there is the lack of clarity on the roles and responsibilities and means of enforcing the contractual obligations, we have instances wherein the public sector do abide with the agreement but in the case wherein the private sector is a large multinational, they usually renege on their obligations; particularly when it relates to smallholder agriculture. There are instances where they are supposed to train the farmers to get the product back from the farmers, they don’t do it and they would create circumstances wherein the small-scale farmers would have produced their products but no market for them. The third problem we see with the PPPs is the farmers end. They are not taken on board when the arrangements are being made. Their interests in the business arrangements are not normally protected. These are three key areas that we have observed in terms of the PPP between the private and public sectors.
How could smallholder farmers get involved in by the private/public sectors in any PPP?
First, farmers should see themselves as belonging to the private sector. They should not see themselves as ‘peasant’. That is out-fashioned. It is their obligation to organise themselves into cooperatives or groups or producer organisations – because cooperatives have not worked in certain countries in Africa. If they are organised along value chain – you want to take for instance, cassava growers in Nigeria who want to arrange themselves into formidable groups of cassava producers association. They should avoid being politicised. It should be an organisation that works for the interest of the cassava producers. It could be rice or maize. They should organise themselves in bigger forms and along commodity value chains and avoid working in isolation but with all the other producers.
Governments take part in organising farmers into groups thereby subjecting them to certain unfavourable policies that they don’t deny.
The old way is when government organised farmers. It should be the other way round where they could organise themselves and negotiate their interests with government. I think government should understand that the relationship between multinationals and smallholders is like putting a goliath and a very thin man to fight. So, government should be at the side of their own farmers by supporting them. The first support is the policy, very clear policies. The second are strategies that translate those policy into programmes and three, the monitoring of those programmes.
How could PPPs work in African agriculture?
PPPs should have good strategies in implementation. There should be monitoring mechanism for reporting back to government whether it is working or whether it has the intended benefits and whether the intended beneficiaries are getting the benefits for bringing the public and the private sector together. These are key – it not either or. They must go together – the policies, the training and the planning and learning and using those experiences to modify your policies.