THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed $24 billion towards food production on the continent in the next 10 years with a bias on agricultural industrialisation and job creation.
The bank lamented rising food imports in the continent, which are gobbling billions of dollars each year, saying the trend was a threat to the future of Africa and called for urgent measures to reverse it.
The bold move to achieve regional food security and curb imports was revealed by the bank’s president, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, during an address at one of the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, last week.
He said attaining food security was at the heart of the continent’s development strategy, Agenda 2063, which is aimed at improving livelihoods for millions of Africans.
“Africa’s annual food import bill of $35 billion, estimated to rise to $110 billion by 2025, weakens African economies, decimates its agriculture and exports jobs from the continent,” said Dr Adesina.
“To rapidly support Africa to diversify its economies, and revive its rural areas, we have prioritised agriculture and are taking action. The Bank has committed $24 billion towards agriculture in the next 10 years, with a sharp focus on food self-sufficiency and agricultural industrialisation.”
He said droughts and famine facing some countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda deserve swift action, amid reports that nearly 20 million people were starving and suffering severe malnutrition.
To that end, Dr Adesina, said the AfDB was planning to deploy $1.1 billion, subject to board approval, to address the crisis and ensure that drought does not lead to famine.
He also said the bank was taking action to level the playing field for women in Africa hence the launch of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) with the goal of mobilising $3 billion for female entrepreneurs. Dr Adesina also said youth unemployment was becoming a cancer for African economies and hinted that a third of Africa’s 230 million youths, about 20 percent, of the global youth population, were unemployed.
“Just think of what would happen if we could create jobs for these youths. Employment for Africa’s youth will spark creativity and innovations revolution never before witnessed anywhere.
“Let’s listen to Africa’s youth, support their ideas, spark their creativity and enable their entrepreneurship,” he said.
As such, Dr Adesina said the bank, through Jobs for Youths in Africa initiative, was targeting creating about 25 million jobs in agriculture, ICT and SMEs over the next 10 years.
“We have no other choice: The youths are the present and future of Africa. And their future is in a prosperous Africa,” he said.
The bank pointed to a huge financing gap to meet developmental targets adding that some $162bn was required per year.
The African Union has designated the African Development Bank as the lead organisation to mobilise resources for its Agenda 2063.
Said Dr Adesina: “Our vision for Africa is clear. But the distance between vision and reality is measured in ‘action units”.
Among the continent’s achievements in 2016, AfDB reported 3.3 million people were connected to electricity, 3.7 million benefited from improved access to water and sanitation; while 5.7 million Africans benefitted from improvements in agriculture.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for Africa fast-tracked. Let’s be optimistic on Africa. I am confident that, with the right scale of financing coupled with political will — the currency of development — Africa’s future will surprise the pessimists!” said Dr Adesina.