Interview Session with Mulhim Eltayeb, Interim Executive Director, Africa Sugar Development Task Force
Give us a short insight into what you’ll be speaking on at the event.
I’d be discussing the African Sugar Development Task Force Initiative (ASDTF), which was initiated by a group of sugar experts with the purpose to establish a multi-stakeholder platform to mobilize political and business interests to address the challenges facing the African sugar industry. The initiative was endorsed in November 2019 by the International Sugar Organization (ISO), and it is now under implementation.
By engaging different stakeholder groups, the ASDTF will develop a common vision and strategy for the industry culminating in a continental sugar plan (CSP), tapping into Africa’s natural resources to achieve continental self-sufficiency in sugar, maximizing the utilization of the industry’s byproducts, and contributing to the sustainability of Africa’s economy and the well-being of the African people through a circular bioeconomy based on sugarcane.
What are the current issues impacting Africa’s sugar industry?
The African sugar industry faces real challenges in achieving a sustainable and efficient industry contributing to the continent-wide socioeconomic growth. The industry is challenged by the transformation from public to private sector without the needed policies and financial instruments to ensure a successful transition, together with inefficient methodologies and tools in implementing new plans.
In the past, due to the intensive capital required to establish sugar schemes and its pronounced socioeconomic impact, African national governments led the implementation of the schemes. However, in the past few decades, some national governments chose to privatize the sector. Nigeria in 2002 transferred the ownership of its four national industries to private companies, Kenya in 2014 initiated a privatization process to sell its five factories and lately, in 2019, Ethiopia announced its under-construction factories would be sold to national and international investors. Yet, this process needs attractive policies to encourage private businesses to own and operate such a complex industry. Investment policies, concessions, tax holidays, protection acts, and land tenure, as well as preferential market access, are some of these critical policies needing reform in many African countries.
Improving and enhancing access to funds is inevitable for the growth of the sector. National financial institutions and multilateral development banks (MDB) must devise special financial products to encourage private businesses to invest in and develop new schemes commercially and sustainably.
Another challenge facing the industry is the lack of adequate technical and human capacity to manage the implementation of new schemes or to operate integrated biorefineries.
Trade barriers at the continental level have been an inhibitor for the sugar industry’s growth. Although commodity trading within the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) has been well developed during the past few decades, accessing markets outside home RECs remains a challenge. With the launching of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), trade barriers are expected to be removed, interregional trade will prosper, and sugar and its byproducts will be traded between African countries with fewer or no barriers.
Where in the industry do you see growth opportunities?
There are many opportunities for the sector’s growth in Africa. With a deficit of more than fourteen million tons of sugar projected by 2030 for Africa, new plants can be built and established schemes can increase agricultural and processing efficiencies.
Africa’s immense resources remain untapped with a utilization of only 43% of its arable land. Introduction of advanced industrial technologies, mechanization, application of agriculture inputs and irrigation systems will certainly improve yields and efficiencies and lead to a more cost effective and competitive industry. This shall be supported by continuous and joint research and development efforts with platforms for knowledge sharing among the industry stakeholders.
Utilization of the industry byproducts—bagasse, molasses, green harvesting residues, and filter mud—could lead to a more sustainable and growing industry and shall contribute significantly to the overall economic growth of the continent. These byproducts are sustainable and green sources of food and energy. Electricity, biofuel, animal feed, meat, yeast, and second-generation biofuel are some of the many products that can be produced from the industry.
What do you wish to take away at this year’s 10th Africa Sugar conference
I am coming to present the ASDTF initiative to this remarkable gathering for sugar industry leaders in Africa. The initiative is expected to transform the current sugar industry into a more vibrant, thriving, and cost-effective industry with high returns for businesses and significant socioeconomic impact for communities while being good stewards of the land. I look forward to engaging African leaders in a constructive dialogue to ensure high level buy in of the ASDTF process and their active participation to help achieve the initiative’s goals and objectives.
Interim Executive Director
Africa Sugar Development Task Force
Mulhim Eltayeb will be speaking at the session, Supporting the African Sugar Industry in Continental Economic Growth, which is taking place at the 10th Africa Sugar from 20 – 22 October 2020.
Delivered digitally, the 10th Africa Sugar brings together top players and industry heavyweights across Africa to highlight the latest market insights and centre-stage key case studies.
For more information, visit www.informaconnect.com.sg/event/africa-sugar