BY JOHNMARK UKOKO
President of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, has warned African countries to prepare for an inevitable global food crisis in the next few years.
Adesina was speaking on Africa’s priorities, as a guest at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre recently in the United States of America (USA).
Fielding questions from the council’s Africa Centre Chair, Ambassador Rama Yade, Senior Fellow, Aubrey Hruby and Jeune Afrique, he advocated an increased sense of urgency amid what he described as a “once in a century convergence of global challenges for Africa.”
He maintained that the continent’s most vulnerable countries had been hit hardest by conflicts, climate change challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic, which had disrupted economic and development progress in Africa.
He said Africa with the lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates had lost as much as 30 million jobs on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the impact of the Russia and Ukraine war on Africa, Adesina lamented the killing and displacement of Ukrainians, describing their suffering as ‘unimaginable,’ adding that the war’s ramifications would spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa.
The AfDB boss explained that Russia and Ukraine supply 30 percent of global wheat exports, the price of which has surged by almost 50 percent globally and reached identical levels as during the 2008 global food crisis, adding that fertiliser prices and energy prices had tripled fuelling inflation.
Adesina warned that the tripling costs of fertilizer, rising energy prices and rising costs of food baskets could worsen in Africa in the coming months. He noted that 90 percent of Russia’s $4 billion exports to Africa in 2020 comprised wheat and 48 percent of Ukraine’S near $3 billion exports to the continent were made of wheat and 31 percent of maize.
Adesina cautioned that to fend off a good crisis, Africa must rapidly expand its food production, saying: “The AfDB is already active in mitigating the effects of a food crisis through the African Food Crisis Response and Emergency 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 is that Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others.
He highlighted the importance of the technology sector as a driver for growth in Africa, and prospects for young people on the continent.
He described African youth as one of its greatest assets and commended the contributions of young entrepreneurs in the Fintech, digital, creative arts and entertainment industries.
Adesina added that the need for young entrepreneurs for innovative financing was responsible for the bank’s decision to engage with stakeholders and established specialised youth entrepreneurship investment banks to unlock potential and engender economic growth.