Reversing Africa’s cocoa paradox. Why Easter celebration signals a call to action

Golden Tree chocolates from Ghana

AROUND the world, chocolate in all shapes and sizes symbolise Easter and bring joy to millions of kids and adults alike. And the demand for chocolate continues to increase, according to experts. There is huge opportunity for Africa, the largest producer of cocoa in the world, to rake in economic value that the global market offers.

Africa produces about 75 percent of the world’s cocoa. But the region faces a daunting paradox: though it accounts for a majority of the world’s cocoa production, Africa gets just 5 percent of the $100bn annual chocolate market value.

Africa has been unable to extract a larger share of the global chocolate market value because it exports just raw cocoa beans. ‘Africa is stuck at the bottom of the cocoa value chain, dominated, instead of dominating, despite being the leading producer!’ exclaims Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

In 2014, looking into the economics of the chocolate industry, CNN anchor Richard Quest visited Côte d’Ivoire. He made a startling revelation into this paradox: most cocoa farmers he talked to had never even tasted chocolate.

Adesina is right when he says: ‘African farmers sweat, while others eat sweets. While the price of cocoa has hit an all-time low, profits of global manufacturers of chocolate have hit an all-time high. It’s time to process Africa’s cocoa in Africa, and end Africa being at the bottom of global value chains.’

The African Development Bank is leading a call to action on Africa’s agro-industrialization, which is key to transforming the cocoa value chain.

‘Africa must not be locked at the bottom…it must rapidly add value to what it leads the world in producing,’  says Adesina, adding that ‘it is time for Africa to move to the top of the global food value chains, through agro-industrialisation and adding value to all of what it produces.’

The African Development Bank has prioritised industrialisation in its High 5 agenda. This could create an opportunity for African countries to add value to their raw materials. It is this regard that the Bank’s Annual Meetings for this year has the theme ‘Accelerating Africa’s Industrialisation’.

The Easter celebration last week signals a further call to action for African cocoa producers to start producing chocolate to compete with countries like Belgium, Switzerland, US and France. This will not only bring in money, but also afford opportunities for the many cocoa farmers who are yet to taste chocolate in their entire life.


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