It was an epic moment for African agriculture on Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya as African leaders, businesses, and major development partners pledged more than $30 billion dollars in investments to increase production, income and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses over the next 10 years. The collective pledges at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) are believed to represent the largest package of financial commitments to the African agricultural sector to date, backed by the broadest coalitions ever assembled in support of food production on the continent.
The commitments were made at the official opening of the sixth African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) that has attracted more than 1,500 influential figures from 40 countries for three days of brokering new agricultural initiatives. The historic investments represent just the first wave of support for the new “Seize the Moment” campaign, one backed by the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), key NGOs, companies and donor countries.
While African agriculture has seen significant progress in the last 10 years, the “Seize the Moment” campaign is a frank acknowledgment that much more is needed for African countries to achieve inclusive economic development – and ultimately realise the international community’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The campaign is a decisive push for the political, policy, and financial commitments essential to transforming Africa’s agricultural sector. The goal: a new era of business opportunities for the 70 percent of the African population that depend on farming for food and income, yet too often face poverty and poor nutrition.
Joined by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, officially opened AGRF 2016 by laying out a bold vision for how agriculture transformation should play out in Kenya and across Africa. Committing himself to deliver on both the political and policy agenda, President Kenyatta announced his government will invest $200 million so at least 150,000 young farmers and young agriculture entrepreneurs can gain access to markets, finance, and insurance. He then called on his fellow heads of state across Africa to step-up and invest aggressively over the next five years in agriculture-related endeavors.
Gayle Smith, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), set the tone for the day with a call for investors and donors to be bold and do their part to achieve “A Food-Secure 2030”. The US government already has invested more than $6.6 billion in global food security and nutrition efforts through its Feed the Future initiative.
This commitment is now locked in for the long-term following approval in July of the bipartisan Global Food Security Act legislation. Smith noted that the initiative “signals the US government’s enduring commitment to global food security and nutrition and is the largest development authorisation the US Congress has made in a decade.”
Other agriculture investors and development partners announcing new financial and policy commitments included: The African Development Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group, OCP Africa, World Food Programme, Yara International ASA, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Additional new investments are expected at the three-day forum. Strive Masiyiwa, AGRF Partners Chairman and Founder and CEO of Econet, recorded the specific commitments in detail and called for other investors and partners to join the “Seize the Moment” campaign during the year ahead.
President Kenyatta, as Chair of the African Peer Review Mechanism, concluded the ceremony by calling for a continental scorecard that will measure and track the commitments to agriculture transformation and ensure they translate into action.
Specific commitments came from each of the following champions of African agriculture:
- USAID launched a global report entitled “A Food-Secure 2030”. The US government has invested more than $6.6 billion in global food security and nutrition efforts through its Feed the Future initiative, and “the Global Food Security Act signals the US government’s enduring commitment to global food security and nutrition and is the largest development authorisation the US Congress has made in a decade.”
- $24 billion from the African Development Bank (AfDB) over the next 10 years, a 400 percent increase over previous commitments, to help drive agricultural transformation in Africa. Remarks from AfDB President Akin Adesina noted that a “key pillar” of the AfDB work will be support for the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation or TAAT programme, which is scaling up various agriculture technologies for millions of farmers. Adesina said AfDB support will also accelerate access to commercial financing, buttressed by proven approaches to reducing risks of commercial lending to smallholder farmers and other agriculture businesses. “Now is the time to come to the aid of our long-suffering farmers and give them the modern agriculture technologies they need to ensure a good return for their labour and hard work,” Adesina said.
- Support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to contribute at least $5 billion to African development over the next five years. It is expected that will include at least $1 billion for agriculture, based on expenditures in recent years. The agriculture investments will continue the Gates Foundation’s work to expand crop and livestock research, strengthen data for decision-making, and improve systems to deliver better tools, information and innovations to farmers. In addition, both the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation today promised to renew their support for AGRA as it embarks on an ambitious series of partnerships to support agriculture-led economic transformation across entire countries. The Gates Foundation also promised to match “dollar for dollar” other development partner support for AGRA programmes. Speaking to the conference via a pre-recorded video, Bill Gates praised AGRA, which sponsors and organises the AGRF, for work over the last ten years that has reached some 15 million farmers. Reflecting on AGRA’s 10-year anniversary, Gates said, “We’re excited about what AGRA has achieved. We are committed to them and feel like it is a huge part of this whole vision.”
- $180 million in additional commitments from The Rockefeller Foundation. The contribution includes $50 million beyond the $105 million already invested in AGRA and its partners over the last 10 years. In addition, the Foundation is providing $130 million for its Yieldwise initiative, work directed by AGRA and other partners that is deploying better storage, handling and processing capabilities to reduce the significant post-harvest losses on African farms due spoilage or pests.“Food loss and waste across the value chain threatens farmers’ livelihoods and costs the global economy more than the combined 2015 profits of the Fortune 500,” said Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “In sub-Saharan Africa, 40 to 50 percent of certain staple crops are lost post-harvest.”
- $350 million from Kenya Commercial Bank Group (KCB) to finance agriculture business opportunities that could reach some two million smallholder farmers, which is 5 percent of the bank’s overall lending portfolio. $200 million will go toward improving market infrastructure and mobilising farmers and $150 million through the KCB Foundation to support livestock farmers. KCB will also work with the MasterCard Foundation, contributing US $30 million each year to helping smallholder farmers access credit and market information via mobile devices. Moreover, Mr. Joshua Oigara, CEO of KCB – East Africa’s largest commercial bank – challenged his colleagues at other leading financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa to match KCB’s commitment. That could infuse several billion dollars into Africa’s agriculture sector, where a dearth of financing has been a major impediment to boosting production and income for smallholder farmers, local seed companies and other agriculture businesses.
- A commitment by the World Food Programme (WFP) to purchasing at least $120 million of its agricultural products each year from smallholder farmers through a partnership called the Patient Procurement Platform. That $120 million represents 10 percent of WFP’s annual procurement budget. Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director, also announced that the Patient Procurement Platform would expand into Kenya and three other countries in 2017.
- $150 million over the next five years from OCP Africa to support local fertilizer distribution, storage and blending in Africa. Mr. Tark Choho, Managing Director of the OCP Group and Chief Executive Officer of OCP Africa, said OCP also will focus on building fertilizer plants in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is in discussions with five countries. This investment is expected to significantly increase access to fertilizers for Africa’s smallholder farmers and is projected to cost $1 billion.
- Over $3 billion to African agriculture over the next six years from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – in keeping with its current policy of spending at least 50 percent of its annual $1.1 billion in Africa. IFAD’s investments focus on intensive efforts to generate jobs in farming and food production, particularly for African youth and African women. “Those of us who have been fortunate to achieve so much over a rich and full lifetime must now do everything in our power to provide our young people with opportunity and hope,” said Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of IFAD and first winner of the prestigious new Africa Food Prize.
- Yara International ASA (Yara), which has been involved in African agriculture for more than 50 years, has pledged to continue with significant investments that can link smallholder farmers to lucrative value chains. “We believe there is a tremendous opportunity for the African agriculture sector to grow from being a net importer to an exporter of food,” said Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether.