Despite Africa having 65 per cent of the unused arable land in the world, the continent cannot feed itself. According to the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, Africa imports food worth US$35 billion annually, when the continent should have been a next exporter of food.
Dr Adesina, who was speaking at the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week on 15 June in Kigali, Rwanda, lamented: “Africa spends 35 billion US dollars in importing food; it is projected that the number will grow to 110 billion US dollars by 2025. Africa is importing what it should be producing, creating poverty within Africa and exporting jobs to other continents.”
According to the UN 2015 World Population Prospect Report, 2.4 billion people are projected to be added to the global population between 2015 and 2050, with 1.3 billion in Africa alone.
This means if Africa realises the potential, it will feed over nine billion by 2050, Adesina said. “What Africa does with agriculture has far reaching impact beyond the region; it will shape the future of food in the world that’s why greater investment in the space is a prerequisite.”
The AfDB chief blamed the prevailing situation in Africa’s agriculture on the policies of governments that look at the sector in the past as a social sector and not as a business with the potential to generate wealth for economies and revenue for governments. “This approach has not been helpful, the focus has always been viewed in terms of managing rural poverty and not wealth creation,” he added. “This sector accounts for about 60 per cent in the labour force in many African economies barely contribute much in terms of revenue for governments.”
Adesina called for greater investment in agriculture in the continent which will not only lead to self-sufficiency in food production but also enable Africa become a net exporter with the effect of eradicating rural poverty.