The president of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has emphasised the importance of agriculture and food security to the growth and development of Africa.
Speaking at a high level conference on agricultural transformation themed ‘Feeding Africa,’ Adesina said nothing is more important than food, noting that while Africa had risen on the back of new discoveries of oil and gas fields, in reality, no one eats oil or gas.
He stated, “People eat food. Access to food in quantity and quality is a fundamental human right. Just few weeks ago at the United Nations General Assembly, the world took a bold decision to approve the Sustainable Development Goals. In my meeting with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, he told me: ‘The SDGs must succeed in Africa. If they do not succeed there, they cannot be said to have succeeded’.
“Africa is clearly the continent on the rise. Six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. Real income has risen by 30 per cent in the last 10 years. Foreign Direct Investment has risen to $64 billion, while remittances have reached $56 billion, exceeding total official development assistance.”
He said despite the slow global economic growth, the continent continues to grow at 3.6 per cent and is projected to increase to 3.8 per cent in 2016 but its only one side of the trajectory.
“The other side of the trajectory, which we must face, is that the growth process is highly unequal. Africa has today, one of the highest inequalities in the world. Over 400 million live on less than one dollar per day.
“While poverty rates have fallen in Africa, the absolute number of the poor has increased, and Africa is the only region where the absolute number of the poor increased in the world,” he said.
The AfDB president called on Africa to rise up and unlock its full agricultural potential, saying with all its bright sunshine, abundant water resources and cheap labour, Africa should be a global powerhouse in food and agriculture.
“Africa cannot eat potential and there is no market for selling potential. In Nigeria, we unlocked that potential when I was minister of agriculture. This convinces me that agricultural transformation can occur in a very short period of time. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda which implemented wide-ranging reforms with sharp focus on the private sector-led input delivery systems, value chain development and financing systems, led to an increase of 21 million metric tonnes in food production within three years. The food import bill in the country fell from an all-time high of $11 billion in 2009 to $3.2 billion by 2014,” he added.
Adesina said that African leaders can eliminate extreme poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in Africa through large-scale agricultural transformations, even as he urged them to change their approach to agriculture on the continent.