AfDB proposes $1bn plan to move away from Russian wheat

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Monday, 21 March 2022 11:32

Congolese workers working at the Africa Congo Milling Company mill, a subsidiary of Terra, member of the Somika group, in Kinsevere, about 10km from Lubumbashi, the capital of the Katanga mining province in the DRC, on 23 February 2015. © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu for JA

This $1bn financial package would help avert food shortages in Africa by enabling the agricultural sector’s development, according to the AfDB.

On 15 March, Akinwumi Adesina announced that AfDB has proposed a $1bn fundraising effort to help 40 million African farmers use climate-resilient technologies and increase their production of heat-tolerant wheat varieties. Aside from the technological aspect, this new strategy aimed at developing the African agricultural sector is particularly relevant given the present war between Ukraine and Russia.

100m tonnes of food

The sanctions imposed on Russia have disrupted grain exports, thus increasing the risk of a major food crisis, given that 30% of the wheat consumed in Africa comes from Ukraine and Russia. In 2019, Russian consumer goods exports to sub-Saharan Africa were worth $1.75bn (50% of the federation’s sales to the sub-region), according to statistics from the WTO.

“We will redouble our efforts to mobilise this money,” said Adesina. “If there is a time when we really need to drastically increase food production in Africa, for Africa’s food security and to mitigate the impact of this food crisis arising from this war, it is now.”

As a continent with a thriving youth population, Africa’s agricultural sector must invest in agritech innovations that will encourage young people to start up agriculture-related businesses…

In broad terms, the Pan-African bank seeks to increase the production of crops, such as wheat, rice and soya, to reach a target of 100m tonnes of food, enough to feed 200 million Africans.

The agriculture sector is a pillar of the African economy, contributing 23% of GDP and 49% of jobs, and has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. A Heifer International survey revealed that in August 2021, 40% of agricultural organisations were forced to temporarily close their doors due to the pandemic, 38% have experienced a reduction in the average amount of purchases per customer, and 36% still lack the financial capital to restart their business.

Lack of access

The survey also reveals entrepreneurs’ growing appetite for agritech. This includes the use of artificial intelligence, remote sensing, geographic information software (GIS), virtual reality, drone technology, application programming interface (API) technology and various precision tools that measure rainfall, control pests and analyse soil nutrients.

According to the Africa Tech Start-up report, this is a booming sector as agritech startups raised nearly $60m in 2020, a figure that represents 8.6% of the investments that startups obtained on the continent last year. However, these tools still come at a high cost to smallholders, as they lack financial means and access to training.

“As a continent with a thriving youth population, Africa’s agricultural sector must invest in agritech innovations that will encourage young people to start up agriculture-related businesses, as they are the key to revitalising Africa’s food system,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, Heifer International’s senior vice-president for Africa programmes.

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