The president of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has been named the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate. Adesina, whose name was selected on Monday, becomes the 46th recipient and the sixth African to be so honoured.
The award was announced in Washington D.C. by the World Food Prize Foundation in recognition of Adesina’s achievements in the agriculture sector and for driving change in African agriculture for over 25 years and improving food security for millions across the continent.
The foundation said in a statement that Adesina, a former Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (2011-2015), stood out in efforts to make food available to Africans. It said: “Awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation, the $250,000 prize honours Nigerian Dr Adesina for his leading role over the past two decades in: significantly expanding food production in Nigeria; introducing initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent; and galvanising the political will to transform African agriculture.
“The selection of President Akinwumi Adesina as the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate reflects both his breakthrough achievements as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria and his critical role in the development of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
“It also gives further impetus to his profound vision for enhancing nutrition, uplifting smallholder farmers, and inspiring the next generation of Africans as they confront the challenges of the 21st century.”
President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Kenneth Quinn, added that in naming Adesina as the 2017 winner of the award, the foundation took cognisance of the AfDB president’s role with the Rockefeller Foundation, which organised the 2006 Africa Fertiliser Summit; led a major expansion of commercial bank lending to farmers as Vice-President of AGRA; and, as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, introduced the E-Wallet system, which broke the back of corrupt elements that had controlled the fertiliser distribution system for 40 years.
“His policies expanded Nigeria’s food production by 21 million metric tonnes, and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments in agriculture – earning him the reputation as the ‘farmer’s minister’,” Quinn stated.
Commenting on the prestigious award in an interview with ThisDay, a Nigerian daily newspaper, on Monday, Adesina said it was a privilege to have been recognised by the World Food Prize Foundation.
“It is a great honour for Nigeria where I come from; a great honour for Africa as well. But I think to me the most important part of it is what it really means for the future because I feel greatly inspired, I feel greatly motivated to go out and do even more in terms of making sure that for me I will not rest until Africa breaks out of hunger and can feed itself and also to see to the end of global hunger.
He expressed optimism about the future of Africa, saying sometimes the narrative on Africa was often in the wrong direction. According to Adesina, “People think Africa is sinking, I don’t think Africa is sinking at all. I think Africa is making great progress; it’s just that it is difficult to end hunger.
“If you take for example the case on economic growth, Africa today is growing at roughly a projection of 3.4 per cent, which is above the 2.2 per cent from last year and next year we project that Africa’s GDP growth rate will be 4.3 per cent.
“Bear in mind that those growth rates are much higher than the global growth rate so Africa is doing well.
“It’s just that Africa needs to grow much faster than it is growing and I think obviously nobody eats GDP, so GDP is not professionally what really matters. However, growth is required if one is going to drive down poverty.”
Since 1987, the World Food Prize has been awarded annually to recognise contributions in any field involved in the world food supply: food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.
Conceived by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, the prize comes with a cash reward of $250,000 and emphasises the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.
Borlaug saw the prize as a means of establishing role models who would inspire others.