President Muhammadu Buhari has urged African leaders to show political will and recommit themselves to transforming agriculture on the continent.
Buhari made the call on Wednesday in Senegal in his goodwill message at the feed Africa summit of heads of state and government.
In a statement by Femi Adesina, his spokesperson, Buhari encouraged his counterparts to adopt innovative policies that ensure people on the continent consume what they produce and export the excess.
With rising inflation globally and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on up food prices, Buhari listed measures that African leaders must take to change the status quo.
‘‘Feeding Africa is an imperative. We must ensure that we feed ourselves today, tomorrow, and well into the future,” he said.
“The starting point is to raise agricultural productivity. This requires the access of farmers to quality farm inputs, especially improved seeds, and fertilizers and mechanisation.
‘‘To succeed, we must strongly support farmers. There is no doubt that we need to subsidise our farmers, but we must do so in ways that are transparent, remove rent-seeking behavior and effectively deliver support to farmers.
‘‘The share of budget allocation to agriculture should be increased across Africa, especially for investments in critical public goods, such as research and development, infrastructure, especially roads, irrigation, and energy.
‘‘As leaders, let us decisively ensure that we meet the 10 percent allocation of our budgets to agriculture as agreed in the Malabo Declaration of the African Heads of State and Government.”
Buhari also called on the African leaders to reduce the rate of rural-to-urban migration through the development of rural areas.
He also said encouraging more young people to enter the agricultural industry and making it appealing to them would be crucial to the future of agriculture in Africa.
‘‘To feed Africa, we need younger male and female farmers. We must also ensure that they get access to land, finance, technologies, information, and markets,” he said.
Buhari, therefore, requested that the food and agriculture delivery compacts arising from the summit must address ways to improve empowerment of the youth and women in the sector.
‘‘We must take into consideration climate change and ensure that agricultural systems are climate-smart and climate-resilient,” he said.
‘‘We must invest heavily in irrigation to help address increasing frequency of droughts that are leading to decline in crop yields.
‘‘I am convinced that the very targeted and bold approach of using the food and agriculture celivery compacts will allow Africa to finally break through and feed itself.
‘‘Feeding Africa is not negotiable. Africa must grow what her citizens eat. As leaders, we must demonstrate political will and re-commit ourselves to producing for the continent’s needs, including surpluses for export.”
‘SAPZ WILL HASTEN THE SECTOR’S TRANSFORMATION’
Furthermore, the President applauded the efforts of the African Development Bank to launch Special agro-industrial processing zones (SAPZ), recounting that he had launched the scheme in Nigeria in October 2022.
He said the SAPZ, which is in the first phase, will cover seven states in Nigeria.
‘‘These very innovative public-private partnership models will help us to transform the agriculture sector much faster and use it to generate wealth,” Buhari said.
‘‘They will also allow our countries to develop integrated infrastructure around our agricultural processes and add value to the production of crops, livestock, and fisheries.”
Buhari also welcomed the provision of $538.05 million by the multilateral financing institutions for the first phase of the SAPZ in Nigeria.
“I am pleased with the partnership approach used for Nigeria by the multilateral financing institutions, with the African Development Bank providing $210 million, the Islamic Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development providing $310 million, and the Government of Nigeria providing $18.05 million,” he said.
‘‘The Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones are game changers for the structural transformation of the agricultural sector.
‘‘I therefore urge that as we develop the food and agriculture delivery compacts from this summit, special attention should be placed on the development of special agro-industrial processing zones.’’
‘CENTRAL BANKS MUST SET UP SPECIAL FINANCING WIDOWS FOR FARMERS’
Meanwhile, in his call for accessible financing, President Buhari emphasised the need for central banks to establish specific financing windows to support smallholder and commercial farmers.
‘‘Access to affordable finance is critical for the success of efforts to support smallholder farmers and commercial farmers. Commercial banks do not lend much to agriculture due to the perception of high risks,” he said.
‘‘Generally, less than 3 percent of total financing by commercial banks in Africa go into agriculture. We must, therefore, reduce the risks of lending faced by commercial banks. But we must go beyond commercial lending.
‘‘Where possible and countries can afford to, the central banks can also dedicate significant resources to complement lending from commercial banks.
‘‘Such dedicated financing windows from the central bank must be well monitored, to ensure that they reach the intended beneficiaries, must be transparent and must not crowd out the commercial lending sectors, or the private sector.”
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