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Welcome Address by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina at the Inaugural WHFF Hunger-Fighters Dialogues

Remarks given by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President, African Development Bank, Patron, World Hunger Fighters Foundation, at the Hunger Fighters Dialogues, organized by the World Hunger Fighters Foundation.

Good morning everyone!

I am so delighted to participate at the Hunger Fighters’ Dialogues organized by the World Hunger Fighters Foundation.

Thank you to the President of the Foundation, my dear wife, Grace, our Chief Operating Officer Ada Osakwe and her team at the Foundation, and all the Borlaug-Adesina Fellows for organizing these dialogues. I am sure they will be very exciting!

Let me warmly welcome Ndidi Nwuneli, who will be speaking with you today. She is one of the Game Changers in Nigeria’s food industry. Thank you Ndidi for sparing time to share your experiences running food businesses with our Borlaug-Adesina Fellows.

There is nothing more important than food — nutritious food. Food business is Africa’s biggest business. By 2030 the size of the food and agriculture business in Africa will be worth $1 trillion.

Yet today, 300 million people in Africa are food insecure. Malnutrition and stunting are pervasive, especially among children. Africa’s best talents, its youth, are denied opportunities to develop mentality and physically. The consequences will be severe on economies. Stunted children today will lead to stunted economies tomorrow. 

So, fighting hunger is all about unlocking Africa’s human and economic potential.

And that economic potential is so immense in Africa. Just think about it: some 65% of the uncultivated arable land left to feed 9 billion people in the world by 2050 is in Africa. What Africa does with food will determine the future of food in the world.

To feed the world, Africa must feed itself. 

To prosper, Africa must unleash wealth from agriculture.

Feeding Africa must start with getting agriculture right: raising agricultural productivity, lowering the cost of food, improving nutritional content of food and improving access to quality and nutritious food. 

And the youth must get into agriculture, as leaders, innovators, and game changers.

Creating wealth in agriculture must start with accelerating access of farmers to agricultural technologies, reducing post-harvest losses, developing and expanding access to markets, adding value to agricultural commodities through greater processing, and improving access of farmers and agribusinesses to finance. 

With the ravaging impacts of climate change, there is also increasing need for improving farmers’ access to climate information and market risk transfer mechanisms, such as crop and livestock insurance, as well as irrigation. 

Equally important are bold policies that support farmers, especially smallholder farmers, women and youth.

The wealth of the food and agricultural sector must not be concentrated in large commercial farms and agribusinesses; they must be shared, with greater wealth opportunities for small and medium sized farms and agribusinesses all across the agricultural value chains — especially those run by the youth. 

Make space for the small. 

That is not just a cache phrase. Let me be more specific. 

For agricultural transformation to create shared wealth and prosperity, as well as decent jobs and wages for millions, we must have much more supportive policies for small and medium sized farmers and businesses.

We must not try to replicate dominant food and agricultural systems in developed economies. Over-concentration on large commercial farms and agribusinesses squeeze out space for small and medium sized farms and businesses. 

Over consolidation leads to monolithic agricultural and food systems that tend to be less resilient and equitable. As you squeeze out the small, you squeeze out jobs, and worsen inequality.

To expand opportunities for small and medium sized farms and businesses, Africa must focus on promoting regional trade in food and agriculture. These regional markets provide vast untapped opportunities in processed and semi-processed commodities and products. 

Africa’s highly diverse and more nutritious foods, buoyed by cultural food habits, create segmented competitive advantage for specialized local foods and businesses.

We must promote disruptive innovations, processing and packaging that favor and promote Africa’s food, not imported foods and agricultural commodities.

Africa’s young entrepreneurs must innovate and help break the continent’s over-dependence on imported foods. Innovate local. Process local. Market regionally. Prosper local and prosper regionally.

The World Hunger Fighters’ Foundation is so proud of you, our Borlaug-Adesina Fellows. You are already leaders, innovators and game changers. As young entrepreneurs, you are making a difference, from research to policy, agribusiness, nutrition, communications, advocacy, and food processing.

You are Africa’s hunger fighters — the generation that is changing the future of food in Africa. You are change makers!

To bring about faster change, you need mentors. Those who inspire you and show you what is possible, and challenge you to go further and drive harder.

The Hunger Fighter’s Dialogues offer unique opportunities for Borlaug-Adesina Fellows to engage with leaders — Game Changers— (like Ada, Ndidi and several others) in the food and agriculture industry, to learn and exchange ideas, gain from their experiences and be inspired. 

And you chose the Game Changers yourselves! 

I know about getting inspired by Game Changers. 

My mentor, Dr. Norman Borlaug, the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, showed such passion for ending global hunger. Sharing his experiences with me sparked my passion to end hunger in Africa. 

Today, at the African Development Bank that I lead, our “Feed Africa” strategy has provided 141 million farmers with agricultural technologies for food security, in under five years. And we are just starting…

So, get a spark! Sparks will help you make a bigger and faster difference.

Let the sparks from Game Changers light up your torch. Then run with the torch everywhere, until we end hunger in Africa.

That is a race worth running! 

That is a goal we must achieve!

Thank you very much. God bless you all.

Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina
African Development Bank