ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PAMACC News) - Head of one of the leading regional banks on the continent has urged AGRA to use Africa Food Prize laureates as champions to inspire and boost agriculture transformation in different African regions and countries
Speaking at the launch of the 2023 nomination process for the prize in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dr James Mwangi, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Equity Bank, said that there is need for the laureates to form regional agriculture advisory boards so as to create interaction between the experts with governments, the private sector and the practitioners.
“We need to transform agriculture from the social investment sector where it only attracts grants, to a profitable commercial sector that gives reasonable market returns,” said Mwangi, noting that that can only happen if the continent developed innovative ways of increasing food productivity, and doing value addition.
Dr Eleni Gabre-Madhin the Chief Innovation Officer at UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, and one of the laureates of the Africa Food Prize observed that time has come for building the brand of the prize, so that it works for agriculture.
“This award should be a very strong branded event that has to be elevated to global recognition,” she told the delegation in Addis Ababa.
According to Mwangi, the award should also be used to impart knowledge to the young generation for them to internalize agriculture as a money making profession at an early stage.
“Among all the students Equity Bank has sponsored to higher education, none of them is studying agriculture because the subject has been linked to poverty. Who wants to study so as to become poor,” he posed.
He said that the Bank, for example in Kenya is paying school fees for over 40,000 students in high schools, and it would be great if the Africa Food Prize laureates started interacting with them at this very early stage. “I would like to take this as a challenge and we as Equity Bank will be willing to work with AGRA to actualize it,” he said.
So far, the bank has launched a private sector focused stimulus package known as ‘Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan,’ which is a USD 6 Billion package to accelerate economic recovery and resilience in the Eastern and Central Africa region as it recovers from the devastating health, social, humanitarian, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘This stimulus package is all about agricultural transformation. If we transform agriculture, we will be transforming the face of the Africa rural woman and the brand of the African child,” said Mwangi.
In the same vein, H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the current Chair for AGRA Board of Directors pointed out some challenges on the continent, which can easily be turned into opportunities through transformation of the agriculture sector.
“Africa will be home to 2.4 billion people come the year 2025. This presents a huge opportunity and market for our own agriculture and food systems, though, it can also be a risk if we don’t manage it well,” said Desalegn.
He noted that 60% of Africa’s $50 billion annual food import bill is spent on Rice, wheat, maize and oil seed products, all of which we can produce ourselves “This is the latest lesson from the Russia-Ukraine Crisis,” he said.
The incoming Chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee, and the former President of Tanzania said that he will use the prize to seize some of the investable opportunities.
“As I take over the leadership of this esteemed Committee, I am reminded of the fact that African agri-food industry presents a sizable opportunity for investment across value chains from production and processing to packaging and trading,” said President Kikwete.
“This Prize, therefore, is a key contributor to realizing some of these investable opportunities culminating into quality jobs and food and nutrition security in our continent,” he said as he launched the 2023 prize nomination process in Addis Ababa.
The Africa Food Prize, which comes alongside a cash reward of USD 100,000, recognizes an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa – from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.