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Adesina: Africa must stop exporting raw agricultural commodities… it’s fastest way to poverty

BY Busola Aro

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Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank (AfDB), says the “highway to wealth” in Africa is the export of value-added agricultural products.

Akinwumi spoke on Wednesday at the ongoing 2023 Africa Investment Forum (AIF) marketplace in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The forum is themed, ‘Unlocking Africa’s Value Chains’.

Speaking during the inauguration of the alliance for special agro-industrial processing zones (SAPZs), Adesina said Africa must help feed the world by becoming a global player in food and agriculture.

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”To do so, Africa must end the export of raw agricultural commodities. We must recognise that the fastest way to poverty is via the export of raw commodities, while the highway to wealth is from the export of value-added products,” he said.

“And that is why SAPZs are important. They provide critical infrastructure to support agro-industrial development in Africa.

“The aim is to unleash the power of its agricultural potential, with the establishment of food processing and manufacturing companies within the zones.

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”The zones will support the transformation of the agricultural sector, raise productivity, scale economies and efficiencies of food and agricultural value chains.”

According to Adesina, SAPZs offer the infrastructure-enabled platforms for Africa to turn its massive agricultural lands into real sources of wealth.

He said the bank had provided $853 million, and mobilised more than $661 million from other development partners, to support the establishment of SAPZs.

“Our collective effort has mobilised $1.5 billion in support of the establishment of 25 SAPZs in 11 African countries,” he said.

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The AfDB president said to expand SAPZs across the continent and take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Africa must scale up resources, partnerships, and alliances.

“The alliance will raise funds through various investment windows for project preparation, project development and construction, and financing for tenant companies,” he said.

Adesina said by doing so, the alliance would bridge the critical financing gap, complement existing initiatives, and mobilise resources towards the common goal of enhancing agricultural value addition in Africa.

He said the alliance would also provide project preparation finance, equity and debt investments, technical assistance, and project tracking and oversight.

On his part, Benedict Oramah, president, African Export-Import Bank( Afreximbank) said political instability in Africa was a challenge to financing major projects.

He said budget financing was a major threat to enabling financing and project implementation, adding that allocation of resources was crucial.

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“There should be continental regulations that countries should respect and justify for anything good for business,” he said.

”It is important to sign constitutional agreements and concessions. It is also important to support products with high profitability.”

According to NAN, an additional commitment of about $3 billion was pledged by the partners during the inauguration of the SAPZs.

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