Sub-Saharan Africa is blessed with natural resources which range from the agricultural sector with vast arable land and a range of favorable agro-climatic zones to a rich variety of minerals and other extractive products such as oil and gas. With a vibrant and energetic youth population, the continent could already be in the forefront as a global provider in the food system and high-quality workforce. This is in contrast to the wasteful annual food import bill that runs into the billions.
However, Africa is plagued by poor governance, corruption, and mismanagement of resources. Agricultural productivity for both crops and livestock has not been keeping up with the Sustainable Development Goals and poverty and hunger remain intractable challenges.
Apart from a handful of countries, the livestock sector has been grossly neglected. An overview of the sector – contributions to the SDGs, aggregate value, and contributions to agriculture GDP is presented. Its importance as a provider of economic opportunities for wealth creation, nutritional benefits for children and growing adults, youth employment, and if properly managed, as a contributor to the mitigation of the effects of climate change are also examined. The paper explores and presents the positive aspects of livestock such as contributions to food and nutritional security, livelihoods, and jobs as well as the negatives - climate change, animal and human health. It further discusses the crop-livestock conflict in Nigeria and elsewhere – a policy bias and failure, neglect of pastoralism and the competition for resources.
Going forward, the role of research and development in livestock development from animal science to veterinary medicine, re-investing in our educational system at both tertiary and postgraduate levels, the role of government and the private sector are discussed.
Opportunities abound in the livestock sector in Africa. Success stories from other developing regions of the world are a pointer to what can be done elsewhere.