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Prepare for global food, energy crises, Adesina warns Africa

Akinwunmi Adesina

African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has warned Africa to prepare for the inevitability of a global food and energy crises.

He also called for an increased sense of urgency amid a once-in-a-century convergence of global challenges for Africa arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and compounded by the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Adesina warned that the tripling costs of fertilizer, rising energy prices, and rising costs of food baskets, could worsen in Africa in the coming months.

He gave the charge while speaking about Africa’s priorities, as a guest at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre on Friday, according to a statement posted on the Bank’s website.

He was fielding questions from the Council’s Africa Centre Chair, Ambassador Rama Yade; Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby; and Washington/UN correspondent for Jeune Afrique; and The Africa Report, Julian Pecquet.

According to Adesina, the continent’s most vulnerable countries had been hit hardest by conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which had upended economic and development progress in Africa.

He said Africa, with the lowest GDP growth rates, had lost as many as 30 million jobs on account of the pandemic, even as he sympathised with the people of Ukraine, describing their suffering as unimaginable.

Galloping inflation

Adesina said the war’s ramifications spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa. He explained that Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of global wheat exports, the price of which has surged by almost 50% globally, reaching identical levels as during the 2008 global food crisis.

He added that fertilizer prices had tripled, and energy prices had increased, all fuelling inflation.

He noted that 90% of Russia’s $4 billion exports to Africa in 2020 were made up of wheat; and 48% of Ukraine’s near $3 billion exports to the continent were made of wheat, and 31% of maize.

My basic principle is that Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others…

Averting food crisis

Adesina cautioned that to fend off a food crisis, Africa must rapidly expand its food production. “The African Development Bank is already active in mitigating the effects of a food crisis through the African Food Crisis Response and Emergency Facility – a dedicated facility being considered by the Bank to provide African countries with the resources needed to raise local food production and procure fertilizer.

“My basic principle,” Adesina said, “is that Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others…”

The Bank chief spoke about early successes through the Bank’s innovative flagship initiative, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program, operating across nine food commodities in more than 30 African countries.

Adesina said TAAT has helped to rapidly boost food production at scale on the continent, including the production of wheat, rice and other cereal crops: “We are putting our money where our mouth is. We are producing more and more of our own food. Our Africa Emergency Food Production Plan will produce 38 million metric tons of food.” TAAT has already delivered heat-tolerant varieties of wheat to 1.8 million farmers in seven countries.

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