Accelerating Food Security in Africa

Published on 13th June 2023

An alarm bell has sounded on the status of development in our world. The UN Secretary General sounded an alarm few weeks ago on the Sustainable Development Goals. The sound was unmistakable: the SDGs are off-track. Of particular concern is that over 900 million people still go to bed hungry every day. Over 283 million Africans suffer from hunger, including over 216 million children that suffer from stunting and malnutrition.

The situation is made more serious due to climate change, including severe droughts, floods and cyclones that have devastated large parts of Africa; including the desert locusts and Fall Army Worms that ravaged several parts of Africa.

Today, much of the Horn Africa and Sahel have not had rains for several seasons. Climate change is costing Africa $7–15 billion in losses annually and this is projected to rise to $50 billion by 2030. Yet, the resources that Africa needs are not there. The continent receives just $30 billion annually in climate finance, while it needs $2.7 trillion to meet its climate finance needs between 2020 and 2030. The challenge for Africa is to adapt to climate change. Here again, financing for climate adaptation is low, estimated at only $3.5 billion-$7.5 billion per year.

At the African Development Bank, we are mobilizing $25 billion for our African Adaptation Acceleration Program, jointly with the Global Center on Adaptation, to support countries. We pledged to commit 40% of our total finance to climate finance; we have exceeded that as we devoted 45% of our financing for climate last year. Similarly, the Bank devoted 67% of its total climate finance to climate adaptation, far exceeding the 50:50 parity between climate adaptation and mitigation called for by the UN Secretary General.

I am excited about what the Bank is doing to support farmers to adapt to climate change, through our flagship program---Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT). 

TAAT, a platform being implemented through partnerships with the CGIAR, national and regional agricultural research institutions and the private sector, is the largest ever effort to get technologies at scale to millions of farmers across Africa.

Over the past three years, TAAT delivered climate resilient agricultural technologies to 25 million farmers or 62% of the 40 million farmer target. Let me cite three examples.

First, when drought affected East Africa in 2018, TAAT helped to deliver water efficient maize, developed by the CGIAR and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, to over 5.2 million farmers, averting a food crisis.

Second, to tackle the Fall Army Worms, TAAT deployed technologies to 2 million farmers across Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Third, TAAT helped to deliver the NERICA rice varieties to over 3.2 million farmers.

The Bank is also deploying instruments to support farmers that are affected by extreme weather patterns. Through our Agricultural Risk Insurance initiative, the Africa Disaster Risk Financing Programme (ADRiFi) we have provided $55 million to pay for sovereign risk insurance for countries and smallholder farmers through the Africa Risk Capacity.

And it is working well.

When drought hit Malawi in 2021, they got a payment of $14.2 million to compensate farmers. When Tropical Cyclone hit Madagascar in 2022, they received $10.7 million to pay 628,000 farmers.

What is exciting about all these is that we are combining the power of science, technology, and innovations to build climate resilient agricultural production systems; and we are connecting global research and development systems with national, regional agricultural research and development systems, as well as private sector value chains.

The successes being achieved also point to the importance of supportive national food and agricultural policies. In Ethiopia, heat tolerant wheat varieties delivered by TAAT allowed the country to expand area under cultivation in the varieties from 5,000 ha in 2018 to 1.2 million ha by 2022/2023 wheat season. In just three years, Ethiopia achieved self-sufficiency in wheat and expects to be a net exporter of wheat by this year; 0.6 million tons of wheat is expected to be exported by Ethiopia to Djibouti and Kenya this year. An amazing achievement!

To enhance food processing, value addition and competitiveness of agricultural supply chains, the African Development Bank is committing resources for the establishment of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones.

These zones, enabled with infrastructure and logistics to support food and agribusiness companies close to zones of production will help to reduce food losses, enhance value addition, and support the emergence of competitive food and agricultural value chains, while creating jobs and transforming rural areas from zones of economic misery into new zones of economic prosperity. The Bank, along with its partners (which includes the Islamic Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development) have invested more than $1.5 billion for the establishment of these zones in eleven countries.

Despite these achievements, there is still much to do to help Africa achieve zero hunger.

To achieve scale across all of Africa, President Macky Sall of Senegal, and I, organized in January 2023, the Feed Africa Summit, which was attended by 34 Heads of State and Government. Working with development partners from around the world and the African Union Commission, the private sector companies, and global and national agricultural research centers, we developed Food and Agricultural Delivery Compacts for 41 countries.

The goal is clear: use the Food and Agricultural Delivery Compacts to achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa within five years, and fully unlock Africa’s agricultural potentials to be competitive in global markets.

It was an incredible coordination of global effort. I am delighted that we have mobilized $72 billion towards the Food and Agricultural Delivery Compacts to help accelerate the transformation of Africa’s agriculture.

I have appointed Special Envoys to work with all the partners and countries for the effective implementation of these Compacts.

 I am pleased to announce that one of the Special Envoys is Dr. Timothy Williams, a former director in the CGIAR, with decades of experience that spanned International Livestock Research Institute and the International Water Management Institute. I expect that the second Special Envoy will also be from the CGIAR.

This should tell you how much I think of the CGIAR and why we must advance on making the CGIAR work better for Africa. We must collectively achieve zero hunger in Africa in the next five years. We have the technologies; we have the technology delivery platforms; we have the science, technology, and innovation platforms such as CGIAR, FARA and others; we have the political will. All we must do is action.

We must pull together the best of science, technology, and innovations to drive a more productive, efficient, and more competitive agricultural system.

New digital technologies are offering innovative solutions to challenges faced by farmers. They now provide improved access to agricultural information and knowledge. Farmers can now access weather forecasts, market prices, best farming practices, and pest management techniques through mobile applications, online platforms, and SMS services. Mobile banking now facilitates financial inclusion of farmers. Fintech companies now allow farmers to send and receive payments, access credit, and conduct financial transactions more efficiently.

The use of remote sensing, drones and satellite imagery has enhanced the emergence of precision agriculture in Africa, providing critical data on soil health, crop growth and water availability for effective farm management on critical inputs such as water and fertilizers, while reducing environmental impacts.

Online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms, and commodity exchanges have emerged, connecting farmers directly to buyers, reducing farm losses and allowing farmers to get better prices.

And in supply chain management, blockchain technology is being used to enhance transparency and efficiency in agricultural supply chains. This helps to track and verify origin, quality, and movement of agricultural products, reducing fraud, improving traceability, and enhancing fair market engagements.

From the farm to the table, technologies, scientific innovation, institutional innovations, are emerging to transform the entire agricultural systems, and food systems in Africa. Agricultural systems that are sustainable and climate resilient. And food systems that will unleash $1 trillion of value by 2030.

For that to be achieved, we must strengthen and support the CGIAR with a lot more resources, ensure that it works in and delivers for Africa based on our priorities, and support regional research and development institutions, such as FARA and the sub-regional agricultural research organizations.

In the past year, the African Development Bank has hosted two high-level consultations co-organized by the African Union Commission, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The objective of these consultations was to gain a better understanding of the One CGIAR reforms and discuss concerns about CGIAR’s engagement with African stakeholders.

The outputs of these consultations, when fully addressed, will strengthen the partnership with CGIAR for supporting Africa’s agricultural research and innovation institutions, particularly national agricultural research systems, and for scaling impact to achieve the continent’s food and agriculture targets.

Partnerships are essential for scaling up innovations to support millions of smallholder farmers across Africa. This is very much in evidence today as we look at the Abidjan II Agreement and subsequent Action Plans, which will commit the Bank along with CGIAR, FARA and the AUC to coordinate activity for boosting agricultural research and innovation over the coming years.

Our organizations—along with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture—are unveiling this action plan at the One CGIAR moderated session and press conference here in Durban this morning.

Our untapped opportunity to put Africa’s food security on a sounder footing. Unleashing the continent’s agricultural potential through proven innovations and a commitment to research holds the key to food security in Africa and throughout the world.

As the stewards of Africa’s agribusiness and science sectors, we bear a huge responsibility—to transform this continent into a food-secure, economically prosperous, sustainable, and resilient beacon for the world.

Our toil is monumental, but our resolve is undeterred. We are turning the tide on food insecurity, unlocking the vast agricultural potential of our continent, and planting the seeds of prosperity in the very soil that feeds us.

Through our collective efforts, we have mobilized significant resources, developed innovative programmes, and initiated transformative actions. Our success in the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones and the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation programme for example, attests to our unfaltering commitment.

Yet, as we commend our collective progress, we must not become complacent. Africa’s ability to feed nine billion people by 2050 is not a foregone conclusion; it is a call to action. It beckons us to harness our strengths, confront our challenges, and work relentlessly towards our shared vision.

Therefore, let us rise to this grand challenge. Let us forge ahead, knowing that our efforts today will determine the future of food in the world.

Our commitment to research, innovation, and investments, must be strong and consistent.Let us collectively do all we can to ensure that every African, every night, goes to bed with a full stomach.

With unyielding resolve and unwavering dedication, let us continue our march towards a vibrant, prosperous, and food secure Africa, where agriculture is a key driving force for economic growth, social development, and environmental sustainability.

Let us seize this moment and work hand in hand to unlock the full potential of agriculture in Africa. We have all it takes to succeed. Let us rise, powered by science, to unlock Africa’s potential in agriculture. Africa must feed itself. And Africa must feed the world. Together, let’s make it happen!

By Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina

President, African Development Bank Group

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