Creating the next generation of hunger-fighters: Adesina caps World Food Prize week with speech to youth

23/10/2017
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Creating the next generation of hunger-fighters: Adesina caps World Food Prize week with speech to youth

One day after his historic pledge to use the World Food Prize money to finance African youth and entrepreneurship in agriculture, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina spoke directly to the students of the World Food Prize’s Global Youth Institute at the headquarters of DowDuPont in Des Moines, Iowa.

Also in the audience were several other previous World Food Prize Laureates; former President of Ghana, John Mahama; as well as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation.

In his address to the youth, Adesina stressed the need to change the perception of agriculture. “Agriculture is not a development activity or a social sector of people needing handouts. Agriculture is a business for wealth creation.”

He pointed out that the global food and agro-industry business is estimated at around US $8 trillion. The size of global food exports stands at US $1.3 trillion. There is a wealth of opportunities arising, he said, including an increasing global population, rapid urbanization, and rapidly rising global demand for processed foods.

Nowhere was this more noticeable than in Africa, where the food and agriculture market is estimated to reach no less than $1 trillion by 2030, Adesina said.

Referring to the students of the Global Youth Institute as future international agricultural leaders and possible winners of a future World Food Prize, as well as future Senators, Congressmen and even US Presidents, he said that massive global investment in agriculture was a mega trend characterized by increasing sophistication, burgeoning markets, universal digital access, and sophisticated technology, such as drones, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

“Why would Amazon cough up $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods? Why would Google spend so much money to align with Wal-Mart?” he said.

Adesina predicted that farm insurance claims will fall as intelligent farming starts to drive agriculture; that digital farm software will play a determining role on the farm; and that, in the near future, agriculture will be pushing the next global investment frontier, and that “farming will become really cool!”

Giving more details about his pledge, he announced that he would establish a World Food Prize Global Youth Institute for Africa, an organization he said will support a new generation of agricultural scientists and innovators across Africa, nurturing and producing graduates known as Borlaug-Adesina Fellows, who will become the next generation of hunger fighters.

Briefly referring to his own modest origins in rural Africa, and to the generosity of his mentors and managers when he was a student in the USA and throughout his career, the 2017 Laureate bore solemn and dedicated witness to the inspiration provided for him by Norman Borlaug’s precious legacy, sustained so faithfully and effectively by his close friend Ambassador Quinn since 1999.

The visit with the youth closed a busy week for “Africa’s Norman Borlaug” and for the African Development Bank delegation. New and promising contacts were made, with old friendships and relationships reinforced in the splendour of the World Food Prize Award Ceremony at Iowa’s State Capitol Building in Des Moines.