The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina spoke at the USDA’s 94th Agriculture Outlook Forum in Virginia as a guest speaker and urged the U.S. to support African agriculture as a business.
“For too long, Agriculture has been associated with what I call the Ps – pain, penury and poverty. The fact though is that agriculture is a huge wealth-creating sector that is primed to unleash new economic opportunities that will lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty,” he said at the forum.
He advised the U.S. government to be leaders in efforts to encourage fertiliser and seed companies, manufacturers of tractors and equipment, irrigation and ICT farm analytics to ramp up their investments on the continent.
He also appealed to the US private sector to critically change the way it views African agriculture.
“Think about it, the size of the food and agriculture market in Africa will rise to $1 trillion by 2030. This is the time for US agri-businesses to invest in Africa,” he said. “And for good reason: Think of a continent where McKinsey projects household consumption is expected to reach nearly $2.1 trillion and business-to-business expenditure will reach $3.5 trillion by 2025. Think of a continent brimming with 840 million youth, the youngest population in the world, by 2050.”
To direct the effort, the AfDB has introduced a number of transformative business and agricultural initiatives. One of those being the Africa Investment Forum.
“We are launching the Africa Investment Forum, as a 100% transactional platform, to leverage global pension funds and other institutional investors in Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa from November 7 – 9,” Adesina told the forum.
The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank are partnering with the African Investment Forum to de-risk private sector investments.
The African Development Bank is also pioneering the establishment of Staple Crop Processing Zones in 10 African countries, that are expected to transform rural economies into zones of economic prosperity and save African economies billions of dollars in much needed foreign reserves.
Adesina said to the delegates at the forum: “We must now turn the rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity. This requires a total transformation of the agriculture sector. At the core of this must be rapid agricultural industrialisation. We must not just focus on primary production but on the development of agricultural value chains,” Adesina added. “That way, Africa will turn from being at the bottom to the top of global value chains.”
People in attendance at the forum included the US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue; U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Stephen Censky; President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Kenneth Quinn; Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Robert Johansson; Deputy Chief Economist, Warren Preston and several top-level government officials and private sector operators.