Obasanjo’s “four Ps” and 2030 cashew agenda: a call in the right direction

The agricultural industry has for years been tipped as the game changer in Africa’s efforts towards self-sufficiency and reducing unemployment and poverty. Africa’s cashew industry has come up strongly in recent years as one with great potentials and one that can significantly contribute to the economic growth of the continent. 60% of the world’s global raw cashew nuts (RCNs) are produced in Africa, with Cote d’Ivoire being the world’s leading producer, producing nearly 1 million tons in 2021. Tanzania, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique are among the major cashew producers in the world.

There is however a growing concern about the sustainability of the African cashew industry, considering the Continent’s inability to process its production and the effect this is having on the sector’s revenue generation and employment creation. Like cocoa and many other agricultural products, about 90% of the continent’s over 2 million tons of RCNs are exported to Vietnam and India for processing before being exported to Europe and America for consumption.  

The African Cashew Alliance (ACA) has been leading the charge to ensure sustainable growth of the African cashew industry through its several learning events and forums, notably the ACA Annual Cashew Conference and Expo by creating the right platforms and conditions for partnerships, advocacy, market linkages, global networking and providing the needed technical support for accelerating growth and investments in the African cashew industry.

At the 16th edition of the ACA Conference, held for the first time in Nigeria, from the 12th to the 16th of September 2022, on the theme “Strengthening Sustainable Kernel and By-product Marketing in the African Cashew Industry,” in what was a historic moment for the cashew sector in Africa, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, who is known to be a friend of the cashew industry and owns a cashew plantation himself, addressed participants of the Conference where he gave insightful recommendations on building a sustainable cashew industry that creates jobs for the people and revenue to governments.

Chief Obasanjo, like many cashew experts and analysts, believes the current cashew supply chain where cashews are produced in Africa, and transported to Asia for processing before being exported to Europe and America for consumption, is not only unsustainable but a slap in the face of Africa. Currently, the continent, where over 60% of world cashews are produced, benefits least from the over 5 billion US dollars cashew generates, due to its continued export of raw cashews.

“Comparatively, Vietnam which produces less than 25% of the world cashew processes 70% of the world cashew,” he said.
“So, what it means is this: whatever may be the total amount of money generated by the cashew industry in the world, what we get in Africa where we produce 60% of the cashew is not even up to 10% of the total value addition coming into cashew industry in the world,” he added.

The four “Ps” to sustainable cashew growth

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo highlighted four recommendations to ensure sustainable growth of the cashew industry, referring to them as the “4Ps”: Policy, Production, Processing, and Promotion, laying much emphasis on policy.

Referring to Policy as “very important” to building a sustainable cashew industry, he highlighted the need for the creation of the right and conducive policy environment at the national, subregional, and continental levels to ensure the development of the cashew industry in Africa. He emphasized the need for various government institutions and structures to work collaboratively with the private sector and other cashew industry stakeholders to formulate and properly implement policies that ensure sustainable growth of the industry “within individual countries, within subregions and continentally in Africa”.

The area of cashew policy has seen some improvement, according to the President of the ACA, Mr Babatola Faseru, as several African countries are putting in place structures and institutions to properly regulate and develop the cashew sector to create more jobs and generate revenue.
“The ACA has been working collaboratively with governments to establish institutions that will regulate the cashew sector in each country. The most recent one is Ghana’s Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA) which ACA worked with other stakeholders to establish. Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ghana have all put in place institutions that regulate and develop the cashew industry by formulating and implementing good policies. The ACA will continue to engage the other countries, particularly Nigeria, on getting similar structures in place,” he said.

Chief Obasanjo cautioned against individual countries and institutions acting as “silos” in the policies they formulate and implement. This is where the Consultative International Cashew Council (CICC), the intergovernmental organisation of cashew-producing countries, which was established in November 2016 in Abidjan to, among others, promote cooperation among cashew-producing countries and all stakeholders to ensure the development of the cashew industry in Africa comes in strongly. The CICC must ensure that individual countries are on the same level in terms of what policies are needed for sustainable growth and to properly synchronize these policies at the subregional and continental levels to achieve desired results.

The President of the CICC and current Minister of Agriculture of Cameroun, Mr Gabriel MBAIROBE, mentioned during his address at the ACA Conference that the CICC is working on a strategic development and growth plan for the period 2023 to 2027. It is expected that this strategic plan will outline clearly how the CICC can synchronize policies to especially facilitate research and cross-border trade among member countries. For an effective CICC however, member countries must fulfil their financial obligations to the organization while cashew-producing countries who are yet to join must do so and be committed to the course.  

As rightly said by H.E. Chief Obasanjo, with the right policies in place, Africa will be able to increase its production, process its cashew production and properly promote the many health benefits of cashew to increase consumption and invest in relevant research towards sustainable cashew growth within individual countries and the Continent at large. And this will ensure that the cashew industry is better positioned to contribute to the development of cashew-producing countries by creating more jobs, generating more revenue, and reducing poverty.

The 2030 Cashew Agenda

As part of his recommendations, H.E. Chief Obasanjo proposed the 2030 cashew development agenda calling on all stakeholders of the African cashew industry to work towards achieving significant growth in all areas of cashew by 2030. In the case of Nigeria, this includes doubling the current production, local processing of at least all of its production, doubling local cashew consumption and doubling the sector’s employment creation by 2030.

According to Mr Faseru, the ACA, as an industry alliance, is committed to the agenda and will bring together all stakeholders to work towards achieving it.   

While this agenda may appear overly ambitious for some, it is a step in the right direction. The African cashew industry needs a clear and collective target and objective, and that is what this agenda presents. It beholds the various development partners, public and private institutions, and other stakeholders of the industry to make it work.