African farms should be given access to technologies that will enhance production, with evidence from countries such as Nigeria demonstrating that technology coupled with strong government backing are yielding positive results, African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina has said.
"Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers,” Adesina said in a recent speech delivered to the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual meeting in Washington, DC.
He cited the case of Nigeria, where policy during his tenure as the country’s agriculture minister resulted in improved rice production within three years.
“All it took was sheer political will, supported by science, technology and pragmatic policies.," Adesina said.
"Just like in the case of rice, the same can be said of a myriad of technologies, including high-yielding water efficient maize, high-yielding cassava varieties, animal and fisheries technologies."
The AfDB is currently working with the World Bank, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mobilize $1-billion to scale up agricultural technologies across the continent under a new initiative called Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation.
“With the rapid pace of growth of the use of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and block chains, agriculture as we know it today will change,” Adesina said.
“It is more likely that the future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drone to determine the size of their farms, monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest.”
He urged African universities to adapt their curriculum to enable technology-driven farmers and to focus on agribusiness entrepreneurship for young people, emphasizing the need to rise beyond theories to application.
Adesina, the 2017 World Food Prize winner, is advocating for the creation of staple crops processing zones (SCPZs) across Africa -- vast areas within rural areas set aside and managed for agribusiness and food manufacturing as well as other agro-allied industries.
“I am convinced that just like industrial parks helped China, so will the SCPZs help to create new economic zones in rural areas that will help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty through the transformation of agriculture - the main source of their livelihoods - from a way of life into a viable profitable business that will unleash new sources of wealth,” he said.
The African Development Bank has already begun investing in the development of processing zones in Ethiopia, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique, with a plan to reach 15 countries in a few years.
To help Africa transform its agriculture, the Bank is investing $24-billion over the next ten years to implement its Feed Africa Strategy.