African Leaders Set To Increase Food Production

By Clement Alphonsus
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Dakar, Senegal — African heads of state and development partners have discussed ways to increase Africa's agricultural production at a summit in Senegal.

The consensus throughout the three-day event has been that it's time for Africa to end its dependence on food imports.

The continent has enough arable land to feed 9 billion people, yet it spends $75 billion each year to import more than 100 million metric tons of food, according to the African Development Bank, which organized the summit.

"Only a secure continent can develop with pride," said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. "For there is no pride in begging for food. The timing is right. And the moment is now," he says. "My heart and my determination is that Africa feeds itself."

Africa typically imports 30 million metric tons of food from the now warring nations of Russia and Ukraine, and energy, fertilizer and food prices have increased by 40 to 300 percent, according to the African Development Bank.

In order to become self-sufficient, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari noted that, African nations must increase funding toward agricultural initiatives and rural infrastructure.

"To succeed, there is no doubt that we need to subsidize farmers," he said. "We must reduce the rate of rural to urban migration through the development of rural areas," he said, "We must invest heavily in irrigation to help address the increasing frequency of droughts."

Due to high lending risks, less than 3 percent of total financing from African commercial banks goes towards funding agriculture, Buhari said, and central banks must pick up the slack.

At a CEO roundtable Thursday, Ahmed Abdellatif, president of Sudanese business conglomerate CTC Group, said risks can be minimized with agri-insurance.

"If you're one of the unlucky half a percent where the rain does not come, it wipes you out totally, and you're in very big trouble," he said. "So agri-insurance would be a big enabler."

In response to the conflict in Ukraine, Zimbabwe began producing its own fertilizer and wheat. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country expects to produce enough wheat to begin exports next year.

"A country must be ruled by the people of that country. A country must be developed by the people of that country," he said. "And a country must eat what it sows - that is village wisdom."