The African Development Bank (AfDB) expressed on Tuesday, January 27 its support to the African Union (AU) in implementing Africa’s commitments for an accelerated agricultural growth and transformation.
Speaking at a high-level event during the 24th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, AfDB Vice-President Aly Abou-Sabaa said the AfDB would bring, with other partners, an innovative financial support to the implementation of the AU Strategy and Roadmap for the realisation of 2014 Malabo commitments on agriculture and food security.
Agriculture, he said, has been and continues to be important for the AfDB. It plays a key role in AfDB’s Strategy 2013-2022 in fostering an inclusive growth.
“However, while agriculture will contribute a significant share of the eight percent growth Africa needs for its transformation, we have to do business differently – we need to focus on those areas and activities that can lead to the transformation of our economies,” he said.
The AfDB, he said, is committed to supporting initiatives aimed at promoting integrated agricultural value chains, improving market linkages and agri-business, supporting youth entrepreneurship in agriculture, encouraging a paradigm shift towards engaging in agriculture as a business.
In his statement, Abou-Sabaa put a special emphasis on gender. “Africa's women farmers must be empowered and given access to productive assets including land and finance,” he urged.
The AfDB is also focusing on youth employment in agriculture. Of Africa’s unemployed, 60% are young people, only 2% of Africa's graduates are employed in agriculture, 40% of Africa’s population already lives in cities, and by 2100, almost 50% of the world’s youth will be African. Working with partners, the AfDB will invest in a flagship programme that supports graduate youth engagement in agriculture and agro-business. The program aims to empower over 800,000 youths in 20 African countries through training in proven agricultural technologies, among other things.
The AfDB will invest heavily in irrigation: 40 million hectares of agricultural land in Africa is physically suitable for irrigation, yet the percentage of irrigated arable land is 7% (barely 3.7% in Sub-Saharan Africa). An annual increase in irrigation investment of 3.6% would triple the irrigated area to 22 million hectares by 2050.
In addition, the AfDB will support regional integration that facilitates trade in agricultural produce on the continent. In an increasingly globalized environment, Africa’s participation in the global agricultural market remains limited, at only 2%.
Vice-President Abou-Sabaa called on all development partners to strengthen cooperation for enhanced synergies.
“We must acknowledge that no one institution can meet the expanding investment needs for agricultural development on the continent. We will continue to reach out to both traditional and new partners and sources of finance for innovative solutions,” he said.