Adesina unravels Africa agricultural revolution

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• Marks 365 days as 8th AfDB president

By FRANK OYAKHILOME

THE leadership journey of 1964 when Nigeria led other African nations to birth a regional Bank – Africa Development Bank (AfDB) – that was fifty-two years old this September, saw a Nigerian, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina taking over the mantle of leadership a year ago after over fifty years of operations as the 8th president. Within a year, Africa Nations has so much great things to show for AfDB’s existence touching lives the continent.

The agreement to establish AfDB was actually made in Khartoum, on 4 August, 1963 with 23 states signing the Agreement with the purpose of “strengthen African solidarity by means of economic cooperation between African states, and therefore establish the African Development Bank with the objective of contributing to the sustainable development and social progress of the African member countries”.

With the prime objective is to mobilize financial resources to support sustainable economic and social development in Africa, AfDB has to raise funds from inside and outside the continent to finance development projects such as roads, hospitals and schools, agricultural projects and electricity. To an economic analyst, by 2040,African population will be close to 2 billion people, thus the task for the mission of the Africa apex Bank will be much more challenging to promote economic growth that is strong, share and sustain investment in people; and remaining focused to the core mission: the economic integration of Africa.

As such a time as this, Adesina, the erstwhile, Nigeria Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development with his ‘Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) missile head projects, which cuts across the societal strata and political bounds touching lives in every rural settings in the nation, has come to the seat of presidency. A tried and test, technocrat and a development economist with practical hands-on experience cutting across policy, finance, private sector investments, agriculture, infrastructure and other sectors of the economy seat to man the affairs of the African apex bank in the next six years with a year down.

Will the words of Madiba, late Nelson Mandela come to play in his tenure that “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”. Adesina recounted his Africa agricultural revolution journey during his keynote address at the just concluded African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which he helped start ten years ago in Kenya as he had worked in AGRA as vice-president.

Already seeing the many hills he has to climb, he says “Feeding Africa is one of the High 5 priorities I put in place, when I was elected as President of the African Development Bank. I want Africa to feed itself and develop with pride”. To Adesina he sees no reason for Africa to be a net food-importing region as the continent is richly blessed with abundant land and water resources, cheap labour and great sunshine.

His plan and pursuit is to make Africa a breadbasket for the world, why? Because the continent holds 65% of all the arable land left to feed the world by 2050.Yet, he bemoans the paradoxical issues of the continent inabilities to feed itself. The AfDB president view, in the keynote address, is that this inability cum Africa begging other nations for food is a major embarrassment for Africa. So it is time for Africa to feed itself, Adesina says.

Still weeping over the food import waste, Adesina noted that the $35 billion that Africa spends on food imports is a huge burden, worsening current account and fiscal deficits, and creating macroeconomic instability. He added that if the current trend continues, Africa will spend $110 billion on food imports by 2025.

An agribusiness economic analyst said if Adesina could transform agriculture form mere peasantry to lucrative business enterprise in Nigeria then there no hill strong enough in the entire Africa nations he cannot overcome, with God on his said. Little wonder, he says in AGRF Keynote address that “We must, however, see opportunities in the challenges. The collapse of the commodity prices facing African countries today is a challenge, yes, but it is also a real opportunity, opportunity to rapidly diversify African economies”.

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He unraveled his plans further that there is no better sector to diversify into than agriculture, adding that accelerating agricultural production will reduce the food import bills, revive the rural economies, slow down rural to urban migration, expand foreign exchange earnings and create jobs, especially for the youth. Affirming to AGRF watchwords, Adesina agreed that Africa must seize this moment, and prioritize investments in agriculture.

The AfDB boss stated that these are reasons the African Development Bank has launched its Feed Africa Strategy as Africa Apex Bank plan to invest $24 billion over the next ten years, in support of African countries and the private sector, to unlock the potential of African agriculture. He, however quickly says that to get there, the Bank will need a stronger role for governments.

Emphasizing on governmental functions he said “Africa must learn from the Asian countries, which rapidly expanded public investments in their agricultural sectors, to achieve the green revolution. There is no 3 denying the fact that without the green revolution in Asia, the continent will not be the industrial and economic powerhouse that it is today. Governments must play their role for better organizing the agriculture sector for greater performance. The structural adjustment and the disbandment of the marketing institutions that used to support farmers was a mistake. It set back African agriculture by decades. The assumption that these institutions would soon be replaced by the private sector never materialized”.

Adesina had reaffirmed, during his a joint venture with his AfDB predecessor at the launching of $152m Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Programme Phase 1 (ATASP-1) alongside IITA that “My passion is to serve Africa and to deploy my over 25 years of extensive experience in international development and results-driven reforms across over 15 countries in Africa to build a new Africa, full of hope and opportunities – a new Africa we will be proud to call home”. He had beckon of Africans to. “Unlock Africa’s agricultural potential and build a more climate resilient agricultural system by turning Africa’s absolute advantage into competitive advantage and by adding value to all farm produce”.

Far before his election as president, the AfDB boss had noted that “Agriculture is critical for the diversification of economies in Africa, away from relying on extractive industries, especially minerals and petroleum”. and that “Africa needs to find new growth engines, the engine of growth with the greatest power to spur Africa into global value chains and create jobs, for inclusive growth, is agriculture, Africa’s wealth is more than petroleum. It is now time to unlock Africa’s soil wealth, via agriculture.”

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