Akinwumi Adesina
Akinwumi Adesina

By Eric Ojo, Abuja

In its drive to help transform agriculture in Africa, the African Development Bank (AfD) is investing $24 billion over the next ten years to implement its Feed Africa Strategy.

Through its innovative Enable Youth initiative, the bank has also in the past two years committed close to US$ 300 million to develop the next generation of agribusiness and commercial farmers for Africa.

In addition, bank has already started investing in the development of processing zones in a number of African countries, including Ethiopia, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique, with a plan to reach 15 countries in a few years.

The President of the AfD Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who disclosed this in his keynote address at the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Annual Meeting, held in Washington, reiterated the bank’s resolve to change the face of agriculture in Africa to unleash new sources of wealth.

Dr. Adesina who won the 2017 World Food Prize, noted that Africa should be the breadbasket of the world, has no reason spending US$ 35 billion a year importing food, adding that all it needs to do is to harness the available technologies with the right policies and rapidly raise agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers.

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He further harped on the need to give farmers across the continent new technologies with the potential to transform agricultural production, adding that technology transfer was needed immediately to turn things around for good in Africa.

”Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers”, he said.

The AfD President noted that evidence from countries like Nigeria demonstrated that technology plus strong government backing was already yielding positive results.

To further buttress his assertion, he said a policy introduced during his tenure as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, resulted in a rice production revolution in three years.

“All it took was sheer political will, supported by science, technology and pragmatic policies. Just like in the case of rice, the same can be said of a myriad of technologies, including high-yielding water efficient maize, high-yielding cassava varieties, animal and fisheries technologies”, he further explained.

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He noted that the AfD is pointing the way to how this can be done, and is currently working with the World Bank, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mobilize $1 billion to scale up agricultural technologies across Africa under a new initiative called Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT).

TAAT, according to him, is taking bold steps to bring down some of the barriers preventing farmers from accessing latest seed varieties and technologies to improve their productivity.

“With the rapid pace of growth of the use of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and block chains, agriculture as we know it today will change.

“It is more likely that the future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drone to determine the size of their farms, monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest”, he added.

Dr. Adesina also used the opportunity to advocate for African universities to adapt their curriculum to enable technology-driven farmers and to focus on agribusiness entrepreneurship for young people, emphasizing the need to rise beyond theories to application.

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He equally canvassed for the creation of staple crops processing zones across Africa (SCPZs) with vast areas within rural areas set aside and managed for agribusiness and food manufacturing industries and other agro-allied industries, enabled with right policies and infrastructure.

“I am convinced that just like industrial parks helped China, so will the SCPZs help to create new economic zones in rural areas that will help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty through the transformation of agriculture- the main source of their livelihoods- from a way of life into a viable profitable business that will unleash new sources of wealth”, he assured.

Also speaking at the event, AAEA President, Scott Swinton said Adesina and the AfD exemplify the use of economics that makes a difference in people’s lives.

“If applied economics is economics that make a difference, I think that there is no better example of someone who has used that than Akinwumi Adesina”, Swindon further noted.