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Opinions: Africa’s Agricultural Sector; Foreign Aid Funding

Africa Must Transform Continent’s Agricultural Sector

“There is no doubt that Africa is on the move … But if African countries are to achieve the new future within their grasp, then there needs to be a new focus on the daunting obstacles still to be overcome. … High among these challenges is the need to transform the continent’s agriculture,” former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan writes in a BusinessDay opinion piece reflecting on the challenges facing Africa’s agricultural system and the opportunities to respond to the growing food demands. 

“By working with Africa’s army of small-holder farmers, the continent can transform its agriculture to grow enough food to meet its own needs, and produce a surplus to meet growing demands across the globe,” Annan writes. However, in order to make progress, “we have to begin with a brutally realistic appraisal of the poor performance of Africa’s agricultural sector,” Annan notes, before pointing to how the continent compares to others in crop output, irrigation of crop land and public investment in agriculture.   

“Without a green revolution in Africa, without harnessing the massive agricultural potential within the continent, it is far from clear where and how this demand will be met. So that is the challenge and opportunity ahead of us,” Annan concludes (4/4).

What Cuts To Global Health Funding Could Mean For Nation’s Health, Security, Workforce

“Global health programs face serious jeopardy if cuts that passed in the House also pass in the Senate,” Jose Hagan, an infectious diseases fellow at Washington University and visiting research scientist at Yale, writes in a Columbia Daily Tribune opinion piece. Hagan he calls upon Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill (D) and Roy Blunt (R) to look closely at the value of global health funding.

Hagan outlines the gains in global health resulting from U.S. funding and notes the connection between the health of other countries and the health and security of the U.S., before describing the local effects of cutting global health funding. For instance, “Missouri received nearly half a billion dollars in research grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health in 2007, helping create and support 6,515 new jobs, some of which spurred innovations in medicine that improved domestic and global health. … And yet the House proposal cuts NIH funding by $1.6 billion – cuts that will limit our innovative capacity to treat and cure illnesses and diseases, eliminate U.S. jobs and impair American competitiveness,” he writes. “I urge our senators to weigh these issues carefully as investments in global health are an investment in our moral values, national security and economic prosperity,” he concludes (4/3).

Why Slashing Foreign Aid Is No Laughing Matter

“Year after year, cutting international assistance is a talking point for politicians,” Gawain Kripke, policy director for Oxfam America, writes in a post on The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” where he describes the common “misperceptions Americans have about international assistance.”

Kripke explains, “According to recent polling, Americans think 27 percent of the budget goes to foreign aid. Asked if they support cuts, most say yes. The funding level Americans settle on for foreign aid is somewhere between 10 and 13 percent of the federal budget. … The only problem, of course, is that the ENTIRE international affairs budget, which includes diplomacy and development, is just about 1 percent of the budget. And less than half of that is spent on poverty-focused development aid.”

Kripke describes the impact slashing the foreign aid budget would have on health programs to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and illnesses affecting children in developing countries and notes how “the threat of the government shutting down” has impacted development programs abroad. He concludes, “April fools is for laughs and kicks. But the pranks should stop when it comes to cutting life saving assistance” (4/1).

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