Political will needed to drive Africa’s agricultural transformation, debate hears

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WED, JUNE 7 2017-AfDBThe African Development Bank has identified political will as a key ingredient to Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda and to pull millions of people out of poverty.

Speaking during a TV debate on Tuesday, May 23, which focused on “Leadership for Agricultural Transformation” at the AfDB Annual Meetings in Ahmedabad, India, the President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, also emphasized the need for a change in mindset on how agriculture is perceived.

Adesina underscored how the sector would become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030. And for Africa to benefit from this expected boom, inclusive growth and a clear agenda would be required, Adesina noted.

According to Adesina, one key strategy the Bank is proposing is the development of industrial agri-businesses to raise productivity in the sector and ultimately support economic growth and structural transformation by enabling the labour force to move from the agriculture sector into manufacturing and services.

“There are opportunities in agriculture for youth, but certain things have to be put in place to realize them, such as financing. Our young people are doing amazing things with ICT. They are providing weather index insurance and extension services. Let us de-risk financing for them to be involved,” said the AfDB President, highlighting the ENABLE Youth (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth) programme that the Bank is supporting to incentivize youth into agriculture.

Contributing to the debate, Senegalese President Macky Sall outlined his vision for agriculture in West Africa’s second-fastest growing economy.

“In five years, I want to see and ensure that our farmers become modern, with tractors and other essential vehicles, and, most importantly, improved livelihood,” said Sall.

“Agriculture remains a priority for us. And, in our emerging programme, agriculture actually accounts for a lion’s share. We have weaknesses of course: financing is still a challenge for farmers. We also have issues of climate change, variations in weather, droughts, and floods, which we are determined to master.”

For the World Food Prize Foundation, Africa is absolutely central to its work, which was started by renowned American Agronomist, Norman Ernest Borlaug.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the Foundation, challenged African leaders and policy-makers to rise to the global food challenge and spearhead technologies that would enable smallholder farmers to thrive in a changing climate.

“In a changing climate, smallholder farmers struggling with droughts would require all the technology they can get to thrive, and biotechnology is one of those options that could make a difference,” said Ambassador Quinn.

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