Africa expends $35bn annually on food imports, says Adesina

Akinwumi Adesina

By Jite Eriabie 

The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, says Africa was spending 35 billion dollars annually on food imports.

Adesina said this on Tuesday while delivering his Norman Borlaug Lecture at Iowa State University, titled “Betting on Africa to Feed the World” in the United States of America.

According to him, it is unacceptable by his estimates; “if the current trend continues, Africa is estimated to spend 110 billion dollars by 2030 on food imports”.

The AfDB chief therefore, called for land tax for unused agricultural land, to provide incentives for faster commercialisation of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.

Adesina said Africa held the key for feeding nine billion people by 2050, adding that more than ever before, the world must help Africa to rapidly modernise its agriculture and unlock its full potential.

According to him, the challenge of addressing global food security is the greatest in Africa.

He said that close to 300 million were malnourished on the continent due to this challenge.

According to him, Africa is the only region of the world where its proportion of the population that is food insecure is on the increase.

“There is therefore absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food importing region. Africa has huge potential in agriculture, but, as Dr. Borlaug used to say, nobody eats potential.

“Unlocking that potential, we must start with the Savannah of Africa which covers mind boggling 600 million hectares of which 400 million hectares are cultivable.

“Africa sits on 65 per cent of the uncultivated arable land left 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,” Adesina said.

The President paid tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug, whom the lecture series was named after.

Adesina said that Africa was the last frontier for the late Borlaug, the Founder of the World Food Prize who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world.

The president said that in spite of the progress globally in food production including Africa, Latin America and Asia, the world still had 700 million people languishing in extreme poverty.

“This includes 800 million with chronic hunger, two billion people with micronutrient deficiency and 150 million children under five years of age that are suffering from stunting.

“The challenge of feeding the world is immense, with need for rapid increases in global food, feed and biofuel production to feed a global population of nine billion people by 2050.

“If Dr. Borlaug alone can feed one billion people, we definitely can feed 800 million people globally and we definitely can feed 300 million Africans,” he said.

Adesina said that to transform agriculture, Africa needs to make a decision to develop new agrarian systems, one that combines smallholder farmers with a new dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.

He advocated for land tenure systems that made it easier to get access to land and for smallholder farmers and their communities to have secure land rights.

The president said that a top priority must be to mechanise agriculture in Africa.

According to him, over 1,200 people from more than 65 countries will address cutting edge issues related to global food security and nutrition at the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium in October 18-20.    

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