Bringing Great Improvement to Africa’s Food Security by Leading Africa’s Agricultural Innovation
Dr. Adesina had a vision that in order for Africa to overcome chronic poverty in the 21st century and stand by itself, African countries must transform their agricultural sectors. With this in mind, for 30 years he has spearheaded agricultural innovation and improved food security for millions of people throughout the African continent.
Dr. Adesina proclaims: “Agriculture is a sector that will help diversify economies, create jobs, and eradicate food insecurity in African countries, as well as achieving food security for the world.” Therefore, he has been at the forefront of establishing major agricultural policies to eradicate poverty in Africa.
Dr. Adesina was born into a family of smallholder farmers. Seeing the reality of rural poverty in his childhood, he learned the crucial link between agriculture and livelihoods, and attained a vision of unlocking the potential of Africa to feed itself and contribute to feeding the world.
In 1988 after acquiring his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, in the United States of America, he returned to Africa and worked for a decade in three of the global agricultural research centers – the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, the West Africa Rice Development Association, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture spearheading policy work on getting agricultural technologies to farmers.
Dr. Adesina joined the Rockefeller Foundation Agricultural Sciences where he worked for a decade, developing innovative approaches for reaching poor farmers in the remotest areas of Africa with improved agricultural technologies. He helped to design a model called “The Agro-Dealers Network”, which consist of a massive rural network of small village shops that taught modern agricultural techniques and sold seed varieties and fertilizers to farmers. With the method, distances travelled by farmers to find modern farm inputs declined drastically. He passionately cooperated with international and local NGOs to reach millions of farmers, yielding significant increases in food production across the continent.
In 2015, based on his belief that, “The greatest infrastructure to build isn’t a road or a rail or a port, but grey matter infrastructure, he established an initiative called “African Leaders for Nutrition” with the help of other world leaders such as Bill Gates; Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa; the late Kofi A. Annan; and the former President of Ghana, John Kuffor. Since the establishment of the initiative, Dr. Adesina has been at the forefront of eradicating malnutrition, stunting and poverty in Africa through agriculture.
Spearheading Good Governance through the Works of Accelerating Africa’s Economic Growth
Throughout his life, thanks to excellent political leadership and influence, Dr. AkinwumiAdesina has continued to build a bright future for Africa, including as a Vice President for Policy and Partnerships of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria. He is still at the forefront of bringing agricultural innovation to the African continent, as a President of the African Development Bank Group.
He pioneered major transformations in the agricultural field, including expanding food production by introducing high yielding technologies, designing and implementing policies to support farmers’ access to technologies at scale, increasing the availability of credit for millions of smallholder farmers, attracting private investments for the agricultural sector, rooting out corrupt elements in the fertilizer industry, and assisting in the establishment of major agricultural policies for Africa’s green revolution.
Based upon his beliefs, he has made “using agriculture to create wealth” his core value. He has also been in the forefront of spearheading Good Governance for Africa, and ensuring inclusive growth for Africa’s economy.
During his term as an Associate Director for Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation in 2006, he ardently organized the Africa Fertilizer Summit, because he recognized that Africa desperately needed to spark a revolution in agricultural techniques using fertilizer to increase food production of smallholder farmers. The summit was one of the largest high-level meetings in Africa’s history to focus on solving Africa’s food issues. Dr. Adesina succeeded in raising excitement and political will among the leaders at the summit and called for the adoption of the “Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution,” of which all leaders in attendance stated their commitment to “eradicate hunger in Africa by 2030.”
After the Summit and since 2006 as a Vice President for Policy and Partnerships at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (late Kofi Annan served as the Chairman), he developed an innovative financing system which ensured banks’ capacity to lend credit to smallholder farmers who had no other ways to get out of the cycle of poverty. With cooperation from banks from other countries, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the system leveraged $100 million in loans and contributed in bringing agricultural innovation to smallholder farmers. The Bank of Uganda provided loans to farmers growing bananas, using $500,000 from Rockefeller Foundation’s Program-Related Investment portfolio, and Kenya’s Equity Bank, which is the largest bank in Kenya, launched a “risk sharing facility” that leveraged $50 million in financing for tens of thousands of smallholder farmers. In Nigeria, he worked with the Central Bank of Nigeria (and its then Governor, Sanusi Lamido, now Emir Sanusi II of Kano) to establish a $300 million risk sharing facility to de-risk lending by commercial banks to agriculture, and successfully leveraging $3 billion in lending commitments. This innovative system expanded to other countries and has greatly contributed to terminating the cycle of poverty of smallholder farmers.
As a result of his achievements, he was appointed as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2011. During his term, he boosted food production by an additional 21 million metric tons over four years and attracted $5.6 billion in private-sector investments. Moreover, he led an agricultural revolution by introducing the “E-Wallet System” which provided agricultural inputs and subsidized electronic vouchers, which allowed farmers to use them in lieu of cash to purchase fertilizer and seed varieties directly from agro-dealers. The E-Wallet System also ended 40 years of corruption in the government-controlled fertilizer distribution system. As farmers used modern seed varieties in rice, maize and wheat production, the number of seed companies increased from 5 to 80 companies within just four years; farmer rice yields doubled to five to six tons of rice per hectare with improved seed varieties, and in the process, transforming the lives of 14.5 million farmers and their families.
Nigeria’s E-Wallet System drew attention as a critically innovative platform to end decades of corruption in the fertilizer supply chain and sparked a Borlaugian “Take it to the Farmer” revolution. Subsequently, global financial institutions such as the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral development finance institutions began supporting the scaling up of the program into other African countries and beyond.
Since 2015, as President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Adesina has set a number of strategic goals and spearheaded the growth of Africa with a “High 5 Strategy” which includes: light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. His leadership is moving Africa forward with speed on many fronts. Bank estimates indicate that in 2017, 4.4 million people were able to connect to electricity; 8.5 million people received benefited in the agricultural field, and 14 million people were beneficiaries of infrastructural investments in the transportation sector.
Dr. Adesina has provided remarkable leadership for youth across Africa and he continues to develop the next generation of leaders. His infectious passion has led many of Africa’s youth to go into agriculture as a business, shifting their mindsets to modern value-chain driven agriculture, which he believes will unlock the fullness of wealth for African economies.
Passionately driven to end poverty in Africa, he pursues this mission by building strategic alliances and partnerships across the world, between governments, private sector and civil society, with a determination to make Africa a “place of wealth” and not “a museum for poverty”. He is mobilizing billions of dollars to make Africa a “land of investment” and not a land that needs “aid”.
In addition to efforts to ramp Africa’s infrastructure, he is driving a bold agenda for the African Development Bank to help deliver universal access to power in Africa within ten years for 645 million Africans who do not have access to electricity. Buoyed by a deep sense of urgency and the realization that Africa will have a population of 840 million young people by 2015, he is accelerating change and economic growth with a goal and plan to create 25 million jobs within ten years, much of which will come from the agricultural field.
In his words “my life is only worth living to the extent to which it helps to lift millions out of poverty into wealth. For three decades that’s been my passion. Development must be done with dignity”.
The Official Web Site of the Sunhak Peace Prize