The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina says Africa should no longer be seen as a museum of poverty but a driver of global growth going forward.
Speaking in New York at an event that brought together investors and business practitioners for a roundtable discussion titled ‘A New Economic Vision for Africa,’ Adesina called for Africa to be looked through a different lens while making the case for agriculture on the continent to be seen as a mega-sector of the future.
“I would like everyone to look at Africa with a different lens, different lenses, not from the lenses of development. Africa, of course, like every part of the world still has a lot of development challenges, but when I look at what we have – 65% of all the agricultural, arable land left to feed 9-billion people in the world by 2050, it’s not in the United States, it’s not in Europe, it’s not in Latin America or Asia, it’s in Africa. What Africa does with that agriculture is going to determine the future of food in the world. So the key is to look at Africa as an investment destination, not necessarily as a development destination.”
He explained that there was a lot of scope for investment in regional connectivity infrastructure development, particularly to give support to the African Continental Free Trade Area; in ICT and international services. But it’s agriculture that he argues should be a powerhouse sector throughout the continent. The bank itself has invested $24-billion over 10-years in business-minded agriculture development.
“Africa is not tapping its agriculture (potential) at all, I don’t think it is. If you take a look at the Netherlands, what does the Netherlands have? The Netherlands has agriculture, look at them; they’re a global powerhouse in the world. When it comes to agriculture, for far too long we’ve been looking at agriculture as a way of life. We all came from rural areas, we look at it as some kind of development, social sector, I’m sorry it’s not. Agriculture is a business. By the year 2030 on the continent, the size of the food and agricultural business is going to be worth a whopping $1-trillion so if we’re going to take millions of people out of poverty, we’ve got to turn agriculture into a mega-sector that works for everybody.”
China is Africa’s largest trading partner at US$204 billion in 2018, while the United States’ trade with Africa stood at US$39 billion in 2017.