President Muhammadu Buhari On Wednesday he urged African leaders to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets to the agricultural sector to promote food security.
Mr Buhari made the call in Senegal in his goodwill message at the Feed Africa Summit of heads of state and government on Wednesday.
According to a statement signed by the President’s Special Advisor for Media and Advertising, Femi Adesina, the president also called on his counterparts to adopt innovative policies that ensure that the continent’s citizens eat what they produce and export the surplus.
With inflation rising worldwide and the effects of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine pushing up food prices, especially staples like wheat and corn, the Nigerian leader listed measures that African leaders must take to change the status quo.
“Feeding Africa is an imperative. We must ensure that we feed ourselves today, tomorrow and in the future,” said Mr. Buhari.
He said that the starting point is to raise agricultural productivity, adding that this requires access to quality agricultural inputs, especially improved seeds, fertilizers and mechanization.
”To be successful, we must strongly support farmers. There is no question that we need to subsidize our farmers, but we need to do it transparently, eliminate rent-seeking behavior and provide effective support to farmers.
“Agriculture’s share of the budget allocation needs to increase across Africa, especially for investments in critical public goods such as research and development, infrastructure, especially roads, irrigation and energy.
“As leaders, let us resolutely ensure that we comply with the allocation of 10 percent of our budgets to agriculture as agreed in the Malabo Declaration of the African Heads of State and Government. We must reduce the migration rate from the countryside to the city through the development of rural areas,” he said.
Mr Buhari’s warning came despite his government’s failure to improve financing for the agricultural sector in line with the Maputo agreement.
The Maputo Declaration entered into force in 2003 and Nigeria confirmed the agreement the following year, agreeing with other African countries to reserve at least 10 percent of their annual budgets for agriculture.
But the sector has remained underfunded under Buhari’s leadership, despite his repeated promises to revive it.
Under the Buhari administration, the budget allocation for agriculture increased from 1.70% in 2017 to 2.00% in 2018, fell to 1.56% in 2019 and 1.34% in 2020, before registering a slight increase (1.37%) in 2021.
In 2022, Nigeria’s agricultural sector allocation accounted for just 1.8 percent of the budget, the highest in four years.
But on Wednesday, Nigeria’s president said the future of agriculture in Africa would depend on getting more young people into farming, which means making farming attractive to them.
”To feed Africa, we need younger men and women farmers. We also need to make sure they have access to land, finance, technologies, information and markets,” he said.
Therefore, he requested that the food and agriculture delivery pacts that emerge from the summit should address ways to improve the empowerment of youth and women in agriculture.
“We must take climate change into account and ensure that agricultural systems are climate smart and climate resilient.
”We must invest heavily in irrigation to help address the increasing frequency of droughts that are causing declining crop yields.
“I am convinced that the very targeted and bold approach of using the food and agriculture delivery pacts will allow Africa to finally break through and feed itself.
“Feeding Africa is not negotiable. Africa must grow what its citizens eat. As leaders, we must show political will and recommit to producing for the continent’s needs, including surpluses for export,” he said.
He applauded the efforts of the African Development Bank to launch Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs).
Mr. Buhari added that SAPZ for Nigeria, which is in the first phase, will cover seven states in the federation.
“These highly innovative public-private partnership models will help us transform the agricultural sector much faster and use it to generate wealth.
“They will also allow our countries to develop an integrated infrastructure around our agricultural processes and add value to agricultural, livestock and fishery production,” he said.
Mr. Buhari also welcomed the provision of $538.05 million by the multilateral financial institutions for the first phase of the SAPZ initiative in Nigeria.
“I am pleased with the partnership approach used for Nigeria by the multilateral financial institutions, with the African Development Bank providing $210 million, the Islamic Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development providing $310 million and the Nigerian Government providing $18.05 million.
”The Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones are a game changer for the structural transformation of the agricultural sector.
“Therefore, I urge that as we develop the Food and Agriculture Delivery Compacts of this Summit, special attention should be paid to the development of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones.”
In his call for affordable finance, Mr. Buhari stressed the need for central banks to set specific funding windows to support smallholder and commercial farmers.
”Access to affordable financing is critical to the success of efforts to support smallholder and commercial farmers. Commercial banks do not lend much to agriculture due to the perception of high risks.
“Generally, less than 3 percent of total commercial bank financing in Africa goes to agriculture. Therefore, we must reduce the lending risks faced by commercial banks. But we must go beyond commercial loans.
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“Where possible and countries can afford it, central banks can also dedicate significant resources to supplement commercial bank lending.
“Such dedicated central bank funding windows must be well monitored to ensure they reach the intended beneficiaries, must be transparent, and must not crowd out commercial lending sectors or the private sector,” he said.
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