Africa spends a significant amount of money importing dairy products that could be produced locally.
“In East Africa there’s a yearly shortage of 40 billion litres of milk. Products that we can produce ourselves shouldn’t be imported,” says dr. Okeyo Mwai, lead scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (Ilri) in Kenya.
He spoke at the 13th African Dairy Conference and Exhibition (AfDa), which is taking place from 15 to 17 November and is presented by the Eastern and Southern African Dairy Association (Esada).
The dairy industry on the continent should be more efficient, innovative, inclusive and climate-smart, and must embrace sustainable practices, said Mwai. He added that livestock numbers on the continent must also be decreased.
Approximately 309 million people currently own 310 million heads of cattle, 360 million goats, 340 million sheep, 34 million pigs, 23 million camels and 1.9 billion chickens.
However, productivity remains a challenge and output will have to double or triple. The production of milk per cow per year varies as much as 430% between high-, medium and low-income countries.
In Kenya, for instance, there’s a large gap between the productivity of the country’s commercial and intensive dairy farmers, which make up about 2% or producers, and small-scale dairy farmers.
The absence of supportive and coherent policy direction, like the marketing of the wrong animal breeds, feed and feed cultivars, is one of the causes of poor productivity. Factors like insufficient mechanisation, as well as poor infrastructure, capacity, institutions and management also play a role.
“Here I want to remove my Ilri-hat and wear my Africa-hat: There is no way to become more efficient if you make the wrong decisions… if there are a few people that are richer than the state,” he added.
He also said that poor management is, according to him, a huge problem on the continent. Despite the challenges, dairy in Africa has a bright future – the continent is a “sleeping giant”, he said.
“We can be competitive if we collectively harness our knowledge.”