Africa must prepare for inevitability of global food crisis – Adesina


‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja

Daily Courier – President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has said that Africa must prepare for the inevitability of a global food crisis.

He was speaking about Africa’s priorities as a guest at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre, Washington.

Fielding questions from the Council’s Africa Center Chair, Ambassador Rama Yade and other senior members of the Centre, the Bank chief called for an increased sense of urgency, amid what he described as a once-in-a-century convergence of global challenges for Africa.

According to Mr Adesina, the continent’s most vulnerable countries had been hit hardest by conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which had upended economic and development progress in Africa.

He said Africa, with the lowest GDP growth rates, had lost as many as 30 million jobs on account of the pandemic.

Speaking about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, Mr Adesina expressed sympathy for the people of Ukraine, describing their suffering as unimaginable.

He said the war’s ramifications spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa.

He also explained that Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of global wheat exports, the price of which has surged by almost 50% globally, reaching identical levels as during the 2008 global food crisis.

He added that fertiliser prices had tripled, and energy prices had increased, all fueling inflation.

He warned that the tripling costs of fertiliser, rising energy prices, and rising costs of food baskets, could worsen in Africa in the coming months.

Adesina further noted that 90 percent of Russia’s $4 billion exports to Africa in 2020, was made up of wheat, and 48% of Ukraine’s near $3 billion exports to the continent, were made of wheat and 31% of maize.

Mr Adesina cautioned that to fend off a food crisis, Africa must rapidly expand its food production.

“The African Development Bank is already active in mitigating the effects of a food crisis through the African Food Crisis Response and Emergency Facility – a dedicated facility being considered by the Bank to provide African countries with the resources needed to raise local food production and procure fertiliser.

“My basic principle”, Mr Adesina said, “is that Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others…”

The Bank chief spoke about early successes through the Bank’s innovative flagship initiative, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme, a programme operating across nine food commodities in more than 30 African countries.

Mr Adesina said TAAT has helped to rapidly boost food production at scale on the continent, including the production of wheat, rice and other cereal crops:

“We are putting our money where our mouth is. We are producing more and more of our own food. Our Africa Emergency Food Production Plan will produce 38 million metric tonnes of food.”

He said TAAT had already delivered “heat-tolerant varieties of wheat to 1.8 million farmers in seven countries, increasing wheat production by over 1.4 million metric tonnes and a value of $291 million.”