Yesterday was a very special day for smallholder farmers across Africa. We had a huge meeting in Nairobi to discuss how we can improve agriculture and increase food production across the continent. Every two years, the African Green Revolution Forum brings together government leaders (including presidents and ministers), agriculture policy experts, banks, donors, business leaders, farmers’ organizations, farmers, NGOs, and entrepreneurs. We also had former presidents such as HE President Obasanjo of Nigeria, and HE President Kikwete of Tanzania.
This year we had a special agenda called “Seize the moment.” We wanted not only to discuss progress made since we last met in Lusaka, Zambia, but specifically to focus on ways to get more investment and financing (including bank loans) into agriculture. To this end, we asked the key players to come to the meeting with actual financial commitments.
The leaders of several African countries were part of this important process, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia. Other countries have been asked to step forward and join this campaign.
As some of you know, I personally traveled to see several leaders in my capacity as the Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which organized the Forum. I was well received in each country.
# The President of Kenya, HE Kenyatta, kicked off the process by pledging to invest an additional $250m to help support young farmers.
# President Kenyatta was followed by President Obama who, through one of his top Africa advisors, Gayle Smith, confirmed that his program (recently announced when I was in the US) now has full Congressional approvals to invest more than $6bn in the years to come, to secure livelihoods through agricultural development. US companies are also stepping up investment into African agri-business, as part of the President’s strategy.
# Bill Gates said in a video that he would commit another $5bn to African development over the next five years, with some of it being used for agriculture.
# The Rockefeller Foundation, represented by its President, Dr Judith Rodin, and the great grandson of its founder, David Rockefeller Jr, put in another $180m.
# The Commercial Bank of Kenya (the country’s largest bank) challenged all banks in the country to follow its lead of $400m.
# The World Food Program said it would buy $110m of produce from African farmers, every year, going forward.
# OCP, a big fertilizer company from Morocco, announced it will build fertilizer factories across the African continent over the next five years at an estimated $1bn.
But the night was still young, brothers and sisters!
# The African Development Bank, led by our own Dr Akin Adesina, coolly stepped forward and pledged $24bn over 10 years — an increase of 400% on its current support for agriculture!
Later in the evening, we honored one of Africa’s greatest sons, Dr Kanayo Nwanze of Nigeria, who has dedicated his entire life to promoting African agricultural development.
__Dr Nwanze was announced the inaugural winner of the Africa Food Prize! This is a new annual award for courageous and visionary leadership in the field of agriculture.
After receiving his award, Dr Nwanze stepped forward to make his acceptance speech.
# Then he announced that the organization which he heads, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), would put an additional $3.6bn into African agriculture over the next six years!
Congratulations Senior Brother! You are a champion, now, and always!
Over $30bn was pledged.
Even if you’re not a farmer or in the agriculture industry, this type of investment will create millions of jobs and fuel economic growth. It’s good for Africa! Even if you’re not in any of the participating countries right now, rejoice with those who would rejoice!
My colleagues and I on the board and management of AGRA, as well as our alliance partners, will continue our efforts to get more money into African agriculture.
I have now boldly called for the pledges to be driven to $100bn. I hope you’ll consider this business.
It’s the future.
Image caption: IFAD President, Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, receiving the 2016 Africa Food Prize at AGRF gala dinner.
From left to right: Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Strive Masiyiwa, Prof Dr Joachim von Braun and Dr Eleni Gabre-Madhin