In his keynote address delivered on 13th June 2016 at the 7th AASW and FARA GA held in Kigali, Rwanda, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank stated that Africa has an immense agricultural potential that needs to be fully unlocked, (Download the full Speech) underlining that what Africa does with agriculture is not only important for Africa, but it will also shape the future of food in the world.
For Africa to really benefit from its agricultural potential, he presented certain areas that needs to be given a particular attention. He emphasized that there is no substitute for science, technologies and innovations as tools to transforming the agricultural sector in turning farms into ‘’intelligent farms’’. Therefore, Africa needs to invest more in science and technology to become more efficient and competitive in agriculture.
There is a need to change the environment which agricultural research feeds into by raising the level of investment for agriculture, which should be seen as an opportunity for wealth creation and not as a social or development sector for managing rural poverty, as it has been the case so far.
Under-investment in agriculture has a negative domino effect on countries as it leaves hundreds of millions of Africans in poverty; it lowers the saving rate and capital formation which in turn weaken consumption demands for goods and services produced in the rest of the economy.
Turning rural areas into zones of economic prosperity by transforming the main source of livelihoods – agriculture – into a wealth-creating sector is a key to fighting misery in Africa, he emphasized.
The massive importation of food by African countries is creating poverty within Africa and exporting jobs outside Africa, as scarce foreign exchange is being used to buy food. Therefore, there is a need to make the case to Ministers of Finance, not to Ministers of Agriculture, for more investment in agriculture by showing them that agriculture sector will add greater value to the economy, expand foreign exchange earnings, significantly reduce imports, drive down inflation through higher productivity and food production, and create quality and decent jobs for the youths.
Another area of importance is for Africa to modernize its agricultural system in order to tap into the growing regional agricultural markets, estimated to rise to $1 trillion by 2030. To achieve this, Africa must rapidly invest in supporting the development of its agro-industry to become an agro-industrial center and not a consumption center, by exporting processed goods and not raw materials.
How the African Development Bank wants to help Africa achieve this goal?
Dr. Adesina outlined some of the ways the African Development Bank intends to support African countries through its New Agricultural Transformation Strategy, directed at supporting them to achieve the modernization of their agricultural sectors, aimed at turning agriculture into a business all across Africa.
He presented the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program as a key component of the AfDB’ strategy. TAAT is spearheaded by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), under the leadership of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA). The objective of TAAT is to scale up agricultural technologies to reach millions of farmers in Africa within ten years.
The ENABLE Youth’s Initiative of the AfDB is another continent-wide effort to getting younger and better educated youths into agriculture, as a business. This Initiative has enlisted interests from over 30 countries.
He mentioned the need to urgently accelerate commercial lending by banks and institutional investors into agricultural sector as another leverage in supporting agricultural transformation in Africa. He announced that the African Development Bank plans to invest about $24 billion (or $2.4 billion per year) over ten years to help drive the agricultural transformation of Africa. This will represent a 400% increase in financing to the agricultural sector by the Bank.
He concluded by underlining the importance of partnership in pursuing this agenda ‘’We will work with NEPAD, the Economic Commission for Africa and multilateral and bilateral finance institutions in this drive’’, he stated before launching a call to all actors ‘’to go out there, and together, score the goals for African agriculture’’.