Transform agriculture into a wealth creation sector, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina urges

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AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina with Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, at the 35th Session of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee meeting in Kigali on July 16, 2016

The issue of Africa’s industrialization was the focus of the 35th Session of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee that met in Kigali, Rwanda, in the context of the African Union Summit.

At the July 16, 2016 event, the leaders deliberated on the importance of intensifying industrialization and scaling up the continent’s electrification programs. They urged the New Partnership for Africa’s Development to work with regional trading blocs to achieve industrialization for sustainable development.

Representing Rwanda’s President, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo asked the delegates to consider implementing partnerships aimed at reaching sustainable development. “Our goal of sustainable development cannot be realized without industrializing Africa. Our deliberations are important and should lead to practical outcomes geared towards achieving an industrialized Africa,” she added.

The Committee’s Chairperson, Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, stressed that “without energy there is no industrialization”. He said there was urgent need for an appropriate industrialization strategy that will ensure a steady pace across the continent.

Addressing the meeting, President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank, outlined the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa whose goal includes expanding grid-power by 160 Gigawatts, connecting 130 million people to grid, another 75 million people to off-grid sources, and 150 million households to clean cooking energy.  “We must have energy for light, clean cooking and baseload energy,” he said, emphasizing the need to ensure the right energy mix on the continent.

He noted the importance of having a timeline that allows Africa to make adjustments to its energy mix, citing the AfDB-led Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, which is expected to deliver 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020. It also seeks to mobilize Africa’s potential to generate at least 300 GW by 2030.

The meeting pointed out the critical role of private sector, describing it as effective in achieving rapid industrialization. “We need to accelerate the rate of private sector participation by creating an enabling environment for its operation. Private sector is the engine of industrial growth, and its ability to create employment is acknowledged,” noted Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister. He referred to the much anticipated Hawassa Industrial Park which is expected to create 60,000 jobs in the country.

President Adesina pointed out the opportunity posed by agro-allied industrialization, saying Africa needed to diversify from raw material production to developing value chains. “This will make Africa’s agriculture competitive. He mentioned the current scenario where Africa is producing close to 75 percent of the world’s cocoa, but processing only two percent. “The key is to use agriculture as a sector for wealth generation and not one to fight poverty,” he stated.

Monitoring and implementation of these initiatives and projects emerged as a key point during the meeting. The NEPAD Agency Chief Executive Officer, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, presented a recently developed ‘dashboard’, which he said would guide the Agency as well as Member States in tracking and  implementing targets of regional and continental projects. The tool, he said, would enhance accountability.