Transforming Africa’s agriculture for growth and development: Delegates converge on Dakar for landmark conference

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Delegates from across the globe are converging on Dakar, Senegal, for a landmark conference on agriculture that promises to yield one of the boldest initiatives ever taken on Africa’s development.

Some 400 participants including Finance, Planning, Economy, Agriculture, Rural Development, Trade and Industry Ministers as well as Central Bank Governors are joining business leaders, academia, investment agencies, civil society and global experts in Dakar from October 21-23, to discuss the future of Africa’s agriculture.

The conference on “Feeding Africa” is jointly organised by the African Development Bank and the Government of Senegal. Participants will review the key challenges to Africa’s agricultural transformation, articulated by AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina as a key priority for reducing poverty and hunger as well as for spurring growth and creating jobs on the continent.

On assumption of office on September 1, Adesina spoke fervently of the need for Africa to feed itself, noting that it was “inconceivable that a continent with abundant arable land, water, diverse agro-ecological richness and sunshine should be a net food-importing region. Africa has 65% of all the arable land left in the world, which can help meet the food needs of 9 billion people on the planet by 2050,” he said.

Africa’s agricultural transformation is one of the five priorities that he laid out to drive the Bank’s development agenda in the coming years: “Light up and Power Africa. Feed Africa. Integrate Africa. Industrialize Africa. Improve quality of life for the people of Africa.”

President Adesina is expected to further articulate his vision for the continent at the opening ceremony of the Dakar conference to be chaired by President Macky Sall, who will also give a keynote address. The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon, will also be in attendance, while World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Kofi Annan and Jeffrey Sachs will join the conference by video.

It goes without saying that for a continent where agriculture provides about two-thirds of employment and accounts for about two-thirds of the world’s arable land, the sector cannot continue to operate at subsistence levels especially when it is realised that the continent spends US $35 billion on food imports each year while a quarter of its population suffer from hunger or malnutrition. Firm commitment by governments would make it possible to leverage the missing agricultural food value chains that link producers, processors, marketers, food service companies, retailers and supporting groups such as shippers, research groups and suppliers.

The Dakar conference will seek strong commitments form governments to undertake the necessary steps towards Africa’s agricultural transformation. These include prioritizing agriculture, renewing private-sector engagement and engaging in innovative agriculture financing mechanisms. Participants are expected to focus on issues such as the modernization of the sector, access to credit for women, and young farmers.

The goal is to transform Africa’s agriculture into a thriving business adequately providing for the continent’s food needs and at the same time capable of feeding a lucrative export market. Participants say it would be possible for the conference to produce a blueprint that would make this happen given the range of expertise and doyens in global agriculture and food business expected to be in attendance.

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