The government of Nigeria and Rwanda have signed multimillion dollar deals with a Nigerian investor, the Blackpace Africa Group, to revamp and develop their potato industries and help to upscale potato production, as well as set up potato processing facilities in the both countries
In Rwanda, the five-year project worth US$120 million involves the uilding of two potato factories; one in the Kigali Special Economic Zone for frozen French fries, and another in Nyabihu District to produce potato products for the export market.
The group will also build a world-class processing facility, which will process 60,000 tons annually of Irish potatoes into French fries, flakes, and crisps in the Nigerian Plateau State as part of a US$103mn project.
Potato in Africa's agriculture economy is often considered solely as food substance. Too often the full economic potential of the potato value chain to the region's economy and importance in contribution toward providing food security in the continent is overlooked.
A recent study by BlackPace research highlighted that the Irish Potato, which currently is the fourth most important staple in the world, made a significant economic contribution to the GDP of potato producing countries in the continent. Coupled with providing high nutritional value and health benefits, however most African countries producing potatoes have not made efficient use of its importance.
Some critical issues affecting this are linked to lack of understanding of the potato value chain, the potential economic impact, as well as the potential export component to drive Africa’s Agric-economy to the next level. This is compounded in some cases by poor agriculture policy judgement of some African states, as well as failures in formulating appropriate investment strategies.
In the African context using two countries as an example, Nigeria and Rwanda we realised that both economies have not maximised their Potato Value Chain to fully effect stronger economic benefit that could be provided to these countries. Nigeria, for example, produces about 800,000 tons annually from over 550,000 hectares, however, the economic value to Plateau state is less than US$20mn.
BlackPace Africa's Cros Agro has significant interest and is investing hugely in Africa's Potato value chain. Currently there's a joint venture/PPP agreement with the Plateau State government to scale up potato cultivation and processing. An initial investment of US$65mn has been put together and in completion a total of US$103mn would have been invested. This will create a financial boost to Plateau State's economy and create over 3,000 new jobs.
A similar investment is being undertaken in Rwanda, where the estimated Potato value chain will add close to US$3.5bn to Rwanda's GDP within the next five years if the investment is properly executed with the support of internal and external stakeholders. Our strategy is to boost the economy of Africa using simple, tried and tested strategies in the Potato value chain. Beyond the food security objective, the plan is to have Africa increase its Potato economic potential and maximise growth as a global player.