Africa’s food and agribusiness will be worth an estimated US$1trillion by 2030, African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has told participants of the World Food Prize Foundation’s Norman E. Borlaug Dialogue (link is external) in Des Moines, Iowa.
The annual event in America’s agricultural heartland revolved around this year’s theme of ‘Harnessing Change’, with delegates and panellists exploring innovative ideas to shore-up innovation, adaptation and diversification, and mechanisms for improving resilience, recovery from shocks and sustainable systems to feed the world.
Several world leaders are actively bolstering food production and food security in Africa. This includes coming together for a landmark global Feed Africa summit in Dakar (the Dakar 2 summit) last January.
The continent, which is home to 65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, ironically imports most of its food. African leaders are intent on ensuring that their countries are self-sufficient in food and become food exporters. There is a realization that by 2050 the global population will reach nine billion – creating a pressing need for Africa to increase agricultural productivity to meet rising demands for food.
The African Development Bank, which is leading the charge to feed Africa, played an active part in the Borlaug Dialogue. At a session titled ‘From Dakar 2 to Des Moines’ on Thursday, Adesina highlighted achievements of the Dakar 2 summit, which the bank organised in conjunction with the Senegalese government and African Union.
Adesina explained how 34 African leaders endorsed country, food and agriculture delivery compacts that produced action- and outcome-driven plans to ensure food security and unlock the continent’s full agricultural potential within five years. This is in line with the bank’s core Feed Africa strategy, which it launched in 2016. Since then, he added, the strategy has supported more than 250 million people – who have benefitted from improved agriculture technologies.
Adesina said partners have committed over US$70billion to support the food compacts. The bank is expected to provide US$10billion over the next five years.
The bank’s head said Dakar 2 reflects the collective resolve of African leaders to ensure the continent feeds itself. One of the leaders, President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia – who was at the Borlaug Dialogue, said: “As African leaders, we are all committed to self-sufficiency in food production. Today, Ethiopia – for the first time in its history – is self-sufficient in wheat production and is a wheat-exporter to its neighbours”.
Zewde acknowledged that this groundbreaking achievement was helped by the African Development Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative. TAAT has distributed more than 100,000 tonnes of certified heat-tolerant wheat seeds varieties, increasing Ethiopia’s wheat production by 1.6 million metric tonnes in 2023.
Further underlining the high level of African participation at the Borlaug Dialogue, Vice President Kashim Shettima of Nigeria spoke about the importance of leadership – which he said is essential to feeding Africa and developing the continent. “A nation falls or rises depending on the quality of its leadership,” he emphasised.
Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Nigeria’s Plateau State – speaking at a World Food Prize side-event on transforming African agriculture through Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) – also emphasised the essence of good leadership. “The time has come to deal with the elephant in the room – and that is corruption,” he said. “We are serious about this, and we want investors to know that investing in Plateau State is a win-win.” Governor Mutfwang also stressed the importance of incentivising investors by reducing unnecessary administrative bottlenecks.
The African Development Bank has already committed US$853million to public-sector initiated SAPZs and successfully mobilised financing of US$661million alongside its co-financing partners. Collectively, the partners are investing more than US$1.5billion to establish 25 agro-industrial zones and supporting ecosystems in 13 countries.
Adesina invited investors and other stakeholders to invest confidently in the African food and agribusiness sector. He said political will is strong and results on the ground show tremendous promise.
The bank is a regular contributor to the Borlaug Dialogue. Akinwumi Adesina was the World Food Prize laureate in 2017, and is recognised for his exceptional and innovative work in the African food system: including eliminating corruption in the fertiliser industry in Nigeria; leveraging resources for smallholder farmers; and increasing crop and production efficiency during his previous tenure as agriculture minister.
This year’s Borlaug laureate is Heidi Kuhn(link is external), recognised for her farmer-focused development model and work that revitalises farmlands, food security, livelihoods and resilience in conflict-affected regions around the world.
The African Development Bank’s initiatives to feed Africa drew strong commendation from Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation, and the Foundation’s President, Ambassador Terry Branstad.