President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Akinwumi Adesina says the group will invest twenty-four billion dollars in agriculture over the next ten years to raise agricultural productivity in Africa.
Speaking in the United States during the 94th annual US Department of Agriculture’s Outlook Forum, Adesina recommends agriculture as the potential to completely transform Africa and feed the world but warns that Africans must change the way it looks at agriculture in order to achieve that.
“Agriculture, for way too long, has been treated as a development activity, a social sector. It’s been treated as a sector for managing poverty. Hence intentions tend not to be structural but rather palliative for poverty reduction. I do not believe in poverty reduction. I believe in wealth creation. By making agriculture a big wealth-creating sector, we will unleash new economic opportunities that will lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”
He observes that Africa’s lack of competitive edge in agro-allied industries has reduced it to mere cultivators without adequate reward for her investments; hence, the urgent need to transform rural economies into zones of economic prosperity.
“How many of you know that Africa is why you have chocolates? Africa produces 75% of cocoa beans globally, but accounts for just 2% of the $100 billion global chocolate market. What’s the brain surgery in making chocolates? The price of cocoa beans always falls, but never the price of chocolates; the price of coffee beans always falls, but never the price of brewed coffee at Starbucks.”
He says Africa needs a revolutionary approach in terms of technological advancement in its agricultural sector to drive economies of scale for business and transversal regional spillover effects.
“Our goal is to have agriculture without borders. And why not? Take the case of the invasive army worms devastating cereals in many parts of Africa. Pests, after all, don’t need visas to wreak havoc across borders. In the same way, technologies to tackle them and to transform agriculture should be without borders.”
He however notes that another major challenge facing agriculture in Africa is the rapid ageing of the farming population; hence the need to change the labour composition in Africa by integrating the African youths and encouraging the African women farmers.
“With the average age of farmers being over 60 years, unless this is changed, and we get younger people into the agriculture, Africa may face a crisis in the next 20 years. There will be no farmers! That is why the African Development Bank has embarked on a major drive to attract youth into agriculture. Our goal is simple: change the labour composition of the agricultural sector. Our drive is to make agriculture “cool” and “sexy”. We will also improve access to finance for women entrepreneurs. No bird can fly with one wing. Africa will move faster if it achieves equality for women in access to land, property rights and finance. That’s why the African Development Bank has launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) to mobilise $3 billion for women-owned business in Africa”
He says The African Development Bank hopes to work with its partners, including the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, in supporting private sector investments.