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Feed Africa

Agricultural Transformation

  • + 150m people adequately fed
  • + 100m people lifted out of poverty
  • + 190m hectares with restored productivity

Access to food – in quantity and quality – is a fundamental human right. It is also essential for ending hunger and malnutrition, and ensuring a healthier and productive workforce. Although agriculture employs over 60 percent of the African workforce and accounts for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP, Africa is the most food-insecure region in the world with more than 232 million under-nourished people, or approximately one in four.

Structural food insecurity is a particular challenge in fragile economies, which are disproportionately susceptible to resource and commodity price shocks and where poor agriculture infrastructure, governance and weak institutions result in low productivity and a heavy dependence on food imports. Women face systematic discrimination across the continent, for example in terms of land ownership, which severely limits their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains. This is further multiplied by women’s unequal access to inputs, household decision making, education, finance, and markets. FAO estimates that closing the gender gap could increase farm yields by 20-30%, and there is wide-spread evidence that closing the gender gap within households has wide-spread benefits for families.

As a result of these factors, Africa had an estimated net food import bill of US $35.4 billion in 2015, with about 15 food chains accounting for most imports, including 5 staple commodities such as wheat, sugar, rice, beef, soybeans.

Africa’s potential for agricultural production is enormous, with 60% of the world’s unused arable land. Increased food demand and changing consumption habits are leading to rapidly rising net food imports, which are expected to grow from US $35 billion in 2015 to over US $110 billion by 2025, which could be offset by increased African production. Export of primary agricultural production is still very high in Africa compared to other regions of the world. Therefore, agriculture offers a realistic prospect for large-scale job creation, especially in fragile economies. Given the importance of food and nutrition, promoting agricultural value chains and improving market access have the potential to diversify economies, raise incomes, increase food security and macroeconomic stability, contribute to mitigating conflict and prevent internal and external migration.

The Bank has developed a strategy for long-term agricultural transformation in Africa. In October 2015, the Bank organized a high-level Ministerial Conference on “Feeding Africa – An Action Plan for Transforming Agriculture in Africa” in Dakar to map out how to unlock Africa’s agricultural potential and boost job creation in view of diversifying economies. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA)(1) supports the realization of key Sustainable Development Goals through the development of an inclusive and competitive African agribusiness sector. Underpinning this vision are four specific goals: (i) contribute to the end of poverty; (ii) end hunger and malnutrition; (iii) make Africa a net food exporter; and (iv) move Africa to the top of export-orientated value chains where it has comparative advantage.

There is absolutely no reason why Africa is a net food-importing region, spending over $35 billion importing food. Africa must feed itself – and Africa must become a global powerhouse in food and agriculture.

- AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina

Through its strategy, the Bank will help unlock the potential of low-income countries using an approach where countries start treating the sector as a business and a starting point for industrialization. Unlocking agricultural potential and tackling food insecurity will require sustained multi-sectoral interventions (e.g. infrastructure development, intensive use of agro inputs and mechanization, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems), appropriate policy reforms, promoting employment of the youth and women, and adopting an integrated value-chain approach that emphasizes access to markets and climate-smart agriculture. The Bank will work with others to promote, where appropriate, the development of agro-allied industrial zones that can produce value-added products. The Bank will also invest in regional infrastructure and enhanced policy dialogue to remove trade barriers, thereby assisting in reducing food price volatility and food insecurity. Finally, the Bank will prioritize agricultural projects that target gender inequality and enable women to have equal access to opportunities throughout agricultural value chains.

The Bank intends to play a key role in catalyzing agricultural transformation, working in conjunction with its partners, in three ways: (i) orchestrate at the sector level the activities of the Bank and partners to create impact-oriented borrowing plans and an evidence-based implementation plan for transformation, in the form of an ‘Agricultural Transformation Partnership for Africa’ (ATPA); (ii) design and lead the operation of areas that are both critical to drive transformation and for which the Bank is able to leverage its comparative advantages; and (iii) scale and replicate the activities and programs of partners that have demonstrable success and the potential to play a key role in country and commodity specific transformation.

The overall goal of the Feed Africa priority is to make Africa a net food exporter by 2025. Transformation will involve mobilizing resources and capital, representing a significant opportunity for potential to drive inclusive and green growth actors along the value chains. Transforming an initial set of agricultural value chains will require approximately US $280-340 billion over the next decade. Such an investment would likely create new markets worth US $55-65 billion per year by 2025. The Bank Group’s investments in agriculture (both public and private) are envisaged to quadruple from a current annual average of US $612 million to about US $2.4 billion.

(1) The Dakar Action Plan for African Agricultural Transformation encompasses 18 objectives.


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