Importing food is harming the continent, UN agency head to tell African leaders


Importing food is harming the continent, UN agency head to tell African leaders

Importing food is harming the continent, UN agency head to tell African leaders
Photo credit: IFAD | Susan Beccio

The US$35 billion a year that Africa spends on importing food should be used to create local jobs in agriculture, according to Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Addressing the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi tomorrow, Nwanze is expected to tell African leaders that the potential for prosperity on the continent is enormous, but investments need to be redirected to developing the agricultural sector.

Although it has a quarter of the world’s arable land, Africa generates only 10 per cent of global agricultural output.

“African leaders are failing their people by their weak investments in agricultural inputs and infrastructure, and their lack of policy support for the sector,” said Nwanze on the eve of his departure.

“If even a portion of the money used for food imports was spent on creating jobs in rural areas, not only would the world’s largest youth population see a viable future on the continent, but Africa would be able to feed itself,” he said.

Convened by Japan, the purpose of TICAD is to promote high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and partners, with a focus on African-led development. This is the first time that TICAD will be held on the African continent. It will run until 28 August.

Although Africa is the world’s second fastest growing economic region, more than 300 million Africans live below the poverty line. Most live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Unemployment rates are close to 40 per cent.

“Economic growth alone is not enough. If we want a continent with food security and social stability, we have to ensure that development focuses on people. They do not want handouts. They want economic opportunities,” said Nwanze.

“At TICAD this year, I hope we can go beyond talking about Africa’s potential and discuss what is practically needed for Africa’s people to seize that potential,” he added.

While at TICAD, Nwanze will also participate in the launch of Japan’s Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa which will establish a framework for African countries to collaborate to improve their nutrition status.

Japan is a founding member and a leading contributor to IFAD – a specialized United Nations agency and international financial institution that invests in agriculture and rural development in developing countries around the world.