Creating markets, developing infrastructure and providing financing for farmers are key ingredients for transforming agriculture in Africa. President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank made these remarks Saturday at the Sasakawa Symposium on "Contributing to Social security and jobs through agriculture-30 Years of Sasakawa in Africa", held at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Nairobi, Kenya.
President Adesina noted that these factors were necessary for transforming agriculture into a wealth-creating sector, generating income opportunities for farmers in rural areas. "Governments can do this by developing agro-allied industrial zones and staple crop processing zones in rural areas. The zones, supported with consolidated infrastructure, including roads, water, electricity, will drive down the cost of doing business for private food and agribusiness firms," he emphasized.
Such zones, he noted, would create markets for farmers, boosting economic opportunities in rural areas, stimulating jobs and attracting higher domestic and foreign investments into the rural areas. "They will turn the rural areas into zones of economic prosperity," Adesina said.
Developing agro-allied industrial zones and staple crop processing zones is a core priority of the AfDB's Feed Africa Strategy for Agricultural Transformation in Africa 2016-2025. "Feed Africa", one of the Bank's High 5 priorities, aims to transform African agriculture into a globally competitive, inclusive and business-oriented sector that creates wealth, generates gainful employment, improves quality of life and secures the environment. The approach entails replicating and taking to scale, successful agricultural programs across Africa and beyond in order to fully realize their transformational impact. The Feed Africa Strategy focuses on promoting given agricultural commodity value chains along eight priority investment areas: Rice self-sufficiency; Cassava intensification; Food security in the Sahel; Transformation of the savannah; Revitalization of tree plantation; Promotion of horticulture; Wheat in Africa; and Fish self-sufficiency.
Yōhei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, which has been contributing to the Sasakawa Africa Association's (SAA) operations for 30 years as a core donor, lauded the Bank's strategy, saying it was in line with SAA's approach, which seeks to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by helping them to diversify their activities to increase income. "With our support, rather than farmers relying on crop production, they are able to process their harvests and add value to their products for sale on the market," he said.
In his address, Shinzō Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, commended the SAA for its 30-year service in Africa, while emphasizing the importance of empowering each and every farmer to make them independent. He called on governments to support farmers by offering specialised training and extension services.
The same was underlined by Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who reiterated the significance of extension services. He regretted the low number of extension workers in his country, standing at a ratio of one extension worker to 8,000 farmers. "Farmers need support and education on new technology that will help them to reap maximum benefits from their farms," said Ogbeh.
Minister Ogbeh underscored the necessity of interesting youth in agriculture, in a continent experiencing a high youth unemployment rate.
The AfDB's "Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture (ENABLE Youth)" initiative was cited as a relevant approach targeting youth in agriculture. It aims at promoting youth entrepreneurship in agriculture and agri-business.
Under the Program, the Bank will train the next generation of agriculture entrepreneurs, also referred to as 'agripreneurs'. The investment required under the ENABLE Youth program to provide 10,000 youth agribusinesses per country is US $0.5 billion, translating to about US $12.5 billion in 25 countries. If each enterprise creates five additional employees, this would amount to a minimum of 2.5 million and up to 5 million jobs.
Each agripreneur is expected to receive a US $50,000 loan from pre-qualified commercial banks, who enter into risk sharing arrangements with the ENABLE Youth country programme.