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Remarks by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group at TICAD7 - High-Level Policy Dialogue on Strategic Investments in Africa: Rural Transformation and Sustainable Agriculture in the Digital Age - Yokohama, 29 August, 2019
I am pleased to join you this afternoon to discuss a topic I am particularly passionate about: how to transform rural economies through agriculture.
I am delighted with the partnership between the African Union, the World Food Programme, JICA, and the African Development Bank, as well as with several other partners on this important issue.
Africa’s rural areas are still disproportionately poor. And they still have a lot of hungry people.
Despite Africa’s rapid economic growth rates, the continent still has today, 251 million hungry people.
And that is what we must change.
That’s why the African Development Bank committed $25 billion towards helping to transform agriculture on the continent and to use this to drive inclusive economic growth.
One of our flagships for doing this is the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT). Launched in 2017, TAAT – as it is known – is a major continent-wide initiative designed to boost the productivity of major food commodities across the continent by rapidly delivering proven agricultural technologies and innovations to millions of farmers.
In its first year, TAAT delivered close to 30,000 metric tonnes of improved climate-smart seed varieties, to over 2.5 million maize farmers in Southern Africa. TAAT supported the production and deployment of over 25,000 tons of certified seeds for five popular heat-tolerant wheat varieties in Sudan with double the typical yields.
TAAT has brought a change into how the business of agriculture is done, connecting demand and supply sides, linking international and national agricultural research systems, and connecting agricultural value chains from the farm to the fork.
We are excited about our partnership on TAAT with the international agricultural research centers, under the coordination of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. With substantial results being achieved across several agricultural value chains, TAAT is well poised to outstrip its target of doubling output and incomes of 40 million African farmers by 2025.
To respond to Africa’s need to process and add value to agricultural produce and create employment opportunities, the Bank is working with several countries to develop Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones in rural areas. As you well know, food and agribusinesses in Africa are located in urban areas – always close to the ports – but not in rural areas. Disconnected from their supply chains and logistics, farmers suffer high food losses due to poor transport and storage, and limited opportunities for large scale food processing.
The question is why don’t food and agribusinesses set up shop in rural areas? Well, simply because the necessary infrastructure are missing. Obviously, this raises their cost of doing business. So, the Bank is making a big push to end the inequality of infrastructure by working with governments and the private sector to bring critical, high quality and integrated infrastructure into rural areas and generate commercial and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones will provide better utilization of shared capacities and infrastructure, and they will broaden linkages between all players across the agricultural value chains.
We are also working to make agriculture digitally enabled. Young people must see agriculture as “cool.” The Bank has launched the Digital Solutions for African Agriculture program, which supports governments and the private sector in introducing and scaling up transformative digital solutions. We are also implementing large programs to develop a new generation of young agripreneurs, who will help drive agriculture with greater knowledge and innovation.
We are investing in addressing the impact of climate change on agriculture.
Our Climate Smart Agriculture Flagship has mobilized over $450 million for regional projects across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, in support of climate-resilience programs.
In addition, through our African Disaster Risk Financing Initiative, the Bank is collaborating with the Africa Risk Capacity Agency to insure countries against extreme weather patterns.
In all this, the power is in working together. As we do, we can make agriculture a business that creates wealth and transforms the quality of lives in rural communities, turning them away from zones of economic misery, to zones of economic prosperity.
And what a different Africa that will be!
Thank you very much.