President of African Development Bank (AfDB) and 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, says Africa holds the key to eradicating hunger and feeding nine billion people globally by 2050.
At the Norman Borlaug lecture to mark the World Food Day at Iowa State University, Des Moines, Iowa, United States, Adesina called for tax on unused or under-utilised land to encourage commercial agriculture and fast-track the unlocking of Africa’s potential.
In a paper entitled, “Betting on Africa to Feed the World”, he said more than ever before, the world must help Africa to rapidly modernise its agriculture.
“Africa sits on 65 per cent of the uncultivated arable land in the world. So, what Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world. African farmers need more than a helping hand. They need a policy lift.”
The former Nigerian minister stressed that addressing global food security was of great concern to the continent, saying about 300 million people were malnourished.The AfDB president paid tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug, recalling how Africa was the last frontier for the late scholar.
Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his effort towards feeding a hungry world.
According to Adesina, despite the successes recorded globally to ensure food security, the world still has 700 million people languishing in extreme poverty. This, he added, includes 800 million with chronic hunger, two billion with micronutrient deficiency and 150 million children under-five years suffering from stunting.
He described the challenge of feeding the world as immense, with the need for rapid increases in global food, feed and biofuel production to cater for a global population of nine billion people by 2050. He decried a situation where Africa spends $35 billion yearly on food imports.
According to him, if the trend continues, the continent would have spent $110billion by 2030 on importation alone. Adesina, however, noted that Africa’s food security depends on attracting young people to agriculture and agribusiness. He maintained that the sector could potentially create wealth and employment for the youths, thereby stemming rural-urban migration.
He considered investment in agriculture as key to making the youths prosperous with attendant pressure on infrastructure in the host cities. The AfDB boss said: “We must get youths into agriculture and see it as a profitable business venture, not as a sign of lacking in ambition.”
This year’s theme is “Change the future of migration: Invest in food security and rural development.”Against this background, Adesina said the AfDB’s ENABLE Youth programme, geared at grooming a crop of young agriculturists, was on course.
For instance, Johnson Mahmud, 26, is the founder of J-Palm, Liberia, which works to improve income for the country’s smallholder oil palm farmers by 50-80 per cent. He is also creating additional jobs for over 1,000 young people to work as sales representatives for his products.
“Despite the tremendous odds, we (African youths) are determined to maximise our abundant agricultural resources to create wealth, jobs and socio-economic opportunities in our countries and across the continent. We need our stakeholders to view us as serious partners in Africa’s transformation, and to work with us to expand our enterprises,” Mahmud said.
He and some of his employees have benefited from capacity building programmes under the bank’s Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth initiative.
Like Mahmud, many African youths are passionate about staying back on the continent to create wealth and employment, given the tools and opportunities to put their skills to use.