The World Food Prize Foundation

The Borlaug Blog

Scoring Goals for Africa

By Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
President of the African Development Bank

It’s been almost six months since I was honoured as the Laureate of the 2017 World Food Prize. Since then, time has passed quickly.

The award and the accolades were, and still are, very much appreciated. I still savour the memories of those few days in Des Moines, back in October last year. But there is a time for everything. In the intervening months, I have been working my day and night job fighting for Africa’s economic transformation and for an end to poverty and hunger on the continent.

Last October, I spoke about hearing the voices rising out of rural Africa saying, “Come and help us out of poverty.” The agriculture gospel was first preached by Dr. Norman Borlaug, whose dedicated work delivered a green revolution across Latin America and Asia that fed a billion people. He had just started a similar revolution in Africa when he passed on. Along with many others, I have dedicated myself to continue and help finish his work.

Dr. Borlaug was always inspiring. Back in 2006, as we both walked together in New York City on our way to the Rockefeller Foundation, he asked me, “Akin, do you play football?” Not sure what he meant, I simply said, “Yes, I play soccer.” He then told me, “Akin, I want you to go out there and score goals for agriculture in Africa.” I can truly say that this was a truly pivotal moment in my mission.

I am proud to be Dr. Borlaug’s disciple and to preach a message of agricultural transformation across the length and breadth of Africa. The mission is simple: Reach Africa’s rural poor and lift millions out of poverty by revaluing agriculture. Agriculture, growing food from the earth, should be considered a lucrative business ripe for investment and cease being dismissed as a subsistence activity for the rural poor. For in the investment-led modernization of ‘agriculture as a business’ lies the hope of economic and industrial prosperity for Africa. By feeding Africa, we will achieve food security for the whole world.

Every time I visit rural parts of Africa, I see the wasting of rich potential. Africa contains 65% of all the uncultivated arable land left to feed the world. But as a continent, we struggle to feed ourselves.  We import staple foods that normally should be grown and processed in our proverbial backyards.

This is why the African Development Bank has committed to investing $24 billion in agriculture over the next ten years. Work in this regard is already well under way, including investments in some really big programmes that have the potential to impact millions of Africans.

One such exciting initiative that the African Development Bank and partners such as the World Bank are developing is the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT). This is a platform designed to mobilize about $1 billion to scale up existing agricultural technologies for farmers across Africa. Our goal is to take such technologies to the farmers in the same manner that Norman Borlaug charged us to do.

We are resolutely committed to meet and beat the challenge of malnutrition in Africa. That’s why the African Development Bank and the African Union has launched African Leaders for Nutrition, to help bring political accountability to address the issues of malnutrition and stunting in Africa. Our goal is to help build grey matter infrastructure by improving nutrition and ending its worst impact, stunting, which currently affects approximately 54 million African children. We will focus on helping to scale up bio-fortified crops across the continent to reverse the impacts of malnutrition, and on keeping African leaders also focused on the challenge.

I had the privilege of donating my World Food Prize award of $250,000. Shortly afterwards, these funds in trust were significantly increased by like-minded benefactors.  As a result, I have set up a fund fully dedicated to providing grants, fellowships and financing for the youth of Africa in agriculture as a business, and to support the work of the World Food Prize Youth Institute–Africa. I am also setting up a foundation - The Hunger Fighters, to catalyse efforts to eliminate hunger in Africa.

The World Food Prize Youth Institute–Africa will support young agripreneurs who we will call Borlaug-Adesina Fellows. This will allow us to strategically continue Dr. Borlaug’s legacy of taking agricultural technologies to the farmers and align with my commitment to promote agriculture as a business.

The youth of Africa are the future of the continent and to them I pledge my support.

Since I received the World Food Prize last year, I can see an increasing army of partners, stakeholders, comrades, and colleagues willing and able to help score more goals for African agriculture.

Together, we will.

I am absolutely certain that Norman Borlaug would be delighted that the “gospel of agriculture as a business” is finally being entrenched and that the days of poverty in Africa are numbered.

03/26/2018 8:00 AM |Add a comment |Comments (2)
You continue to inspire so many of us who've had the privilege of working with you over the years. We are confident that you will stay the course - through the many difficult challenges that remain - to help the continent achieve widespread food and nutritional security within our lifetimes.

Peter Matlon | | 03/26/2018 12:32 PM
I'm always inspired by your write ups Sir. You have been a mentor to me right from my undergraduate days in OAU when you got the Distinguished Alumni Award. Specifically, what are those opportunities that youths driving for food security can key into and how can they get in?

Ayoade | | 03/26/2018 10:10 AM
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