Agriculture is the backbone of many West African countries. Some of the important les played by agriculture are explained below:
Raw materials supply: Agriculture provides the basic raw materials needed by local industries in West Africa. Some of the raw materials provided include cocoa, sugar cane, cotton, palm oil and others. The adequate supply of basic raw materials has led to conservation of scarce foreign exchange, which would have been used to import raw materials and hence bring about reduction of balance of payment problems.
Food supply: Agriculture provides nutritional needs of the people in the sub-region, which involves both those in the rural and urban areas. Some of the food it supplies includes onion, meat, cassava, plantain and so on. It provides about 90% of the food requirement in West African countries. Adequate supply of food locally has reduced the import bill of most West African countries.
Employment: In West Africa, the sector alone employs between 60% -70% of the active labour force. Those employed are mostly engaged in fishing, cultivation of land and the workers of the various marketing institutions. This has to some extent reduced and the rate of rural-urban migration with its adverse effects on the economy
Source of foreign exchange: Greater percentage of foreign exchange needed for the importation of capital equipment to develop the country is mostly obtained from the agricultural sector. This is obtained through export of cocoa, timber, ginger, yam, shea butter and others. The foreign exchange earned through export of agriculture. commodities has helped to reduce balance of payment problems in West African countries. This has promoted economic growth and development.
Source of revenue to government: Taxes imposed on agricultural commodities being exported go to the government as a source of revenue. This is mostly imposed on the export of cocoa, timber, ginger, yam, and so on. The surpluses of marketing boards' funds go to the government as a source of revenue. All these monies are used to finance or provide infrastructure facilities. Most governments in West Africa depend on this for development projects.
By: Sefa Emmanuel
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