Investing in science and research has massive benefits for Africa’s economy

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Africa needs to make greater investments in science and technology to become more efficient and competitive in agriculture, says the African Development Bank (AfDB). According to the Bank, science and technology are critical in transforming the agriculture industry from one that manages rural poverty to a wealth creating sector.

The Bank’s President Akinwumi Adesina was speaking at the 7th Agriculture Science Week (AASW) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), where he was awarded the FARA Leadership Prize for advancing agricultural science, technology and innovation in Africa. The June 13-16, 2016 event is taking place in Kigali, Rwanda.

“There cannot be a secure Africa unless we first and foremost revive the rural economies. We must turn these areas into zones of economic prosperity. And for that to happen, we must transform the main source of livelihoods – agriculture – into a wealth-creating sector,” said Dr Adesina.

Better funding for innovation and technology will lead to a more food secure Africa, meaning less spending of its foreign exchange on importing food. This, according to Adesina, will help to stabilise the exchange rate and local currencies – which is beneficial to the economy. “A more food secure Africa will have greater savings, as disposable incomes will rise for both rural and urban populations. A more food secure Africa will free up resources for high value food, feed, horticulture, floriculture and livestock exports to earn foreign exchange,” he pointed out.

He called on Africa to position itself and take advantage of the fast growing regional agricultural markets through modernising its agricultural system. It is estimated that food and agricultural markets in Africa will rise to $1 trillion by 2030. “The question for Africa is this: will Africa tap into this huge market by investing now in modernising its agricultural sector or will it simply become a net food importing region? The answer to this must be to modernise the agricultural system.”

The AASW and FARA General Assembly is a triennial event. It brings together stakeholders in African agriculture science, technology and innovation to take stock of their collective achievements over the past three years. They then draw a common agenda with modalities for achieving their collective targets in the next three years. The forum is a platform for deliberating practical ways on how science and research can be used to improve Africa’s agriculture.