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The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has outlined a roadmap towards the transformation of agriculture in Africa. The President laid emphasis on combating malnutrition in children, turning African farmlands into major suppliers of food for export and putting funds at the disposal of local banks to create a stable source of funding for farm investments.
Addressing prominent players in the world of agriculture at the Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development (TICAD) VI underway in Nairobi on Friday, President Adesina emphasised that the Bank’s US $24-billion capital investment in promoting Africa’s agriculture was one such initiatives.
“It will take more than one person to transform agriculture. It is time to get agriculture right as a business. We need to make Africa part of this development,” Adesina said during a panel discussion on the “Future of Food in Sub-Saharan Africa: Reviewing Progress, Charting Next Steps,” convened by the World Bank Group at the ongoing TICAD VI, which concludes on Sunday, August 28.
Adesina said investing in agriculture would help eliminate extreme poverty and malnutrition, which affects 58 million children in Africa. It will also mean transforming Africa from an importer of food and providing funding to local banks to lend to farmers wishing to make use of new technologies in agriculture production, he said.
The Bank has earmarked US $24 billion for onward lending to financial institutions over the next 10 years. The funding is meant to enhance access to capital required to roll out investments in agricultural innovations.
The impact of drought was a drawback on the effort by most African farmers and states to ensure food security, Adesina said.
He said the funding being availed by the AfDB would enable large-scale investors to develop crop-processing centres and rapidly work towards industrialising agriculture across Africa.
Like the export-processing zones, which enjoy special tax status in some African countries, the AfDB is providing a final push for the launch of an African industrialisation agenda. Such initiatives are already under pilot implementation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is currently aiming to connect at least a 40-kilometre radius of farms through modern infrastructure to advance farming.
President Adesina also welcomed the Rwandan Government initiative to improve access to nutrition for poor families through the one-cow a family initiative.
Addressing the high-level panel debate on charting the future of food security, Rwandan Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources Geraldine Mukeshimana said her country combined limited resources and good leadership to implement a series of measures to grow agriculture.
“When you have limited resources, you have to use unconventional means to move forward. The leadership commitment saw us moving from the top backwards in unconventional ways. We did this by training farmers who trained other farmers. We got people to increase the extension services to farmers and incorporated farmers into cooperative organisations to enhance their access to finance. This has helped us move forward,” Minister Mukeshimana told participants.
The Minister said the successful rollout of initiatives has enabled the private sector to invest in warehousing facilities. Besides, Rwanda is gaining access to regional markets through the East African Community (EAC) and using the commodity exchanges to widen the market for farm produce, the Minister said.
The session was attended by eminent panelists including Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who is amongst the heads of international organisations attending the TICAD Summit.
Graziano cited conflict and the challenge of technical leadership as amongst the challenges impeding the growth of Africa’s agriculture sector. The FAO Director-General also appealed for steps to ensure governments across Africa ensure state agriculture policies do not change when the government changes.