President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina launched his biography; “Against all Odds, a World Food Prize Laureate and His Drive to Feed Africa” yesterday at the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium – World Food Prize (WFP) in Des Moines, Iowa USA.
The book which beams a searchlight on Dr. Adesina’s Africa transformation efforts was authored by Dr. Leon Hesser, a 93 years old scientist who also authored the biography of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the ‘Father of Green Revolution’ and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Speaking at the launch which had in attendance, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, Amb. Kenneth Quinn, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, H.E Felix Tshisekedi and Former President of Nigeria, H.E Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Adesina made the point that “Against all Odds’ was written to help uplift Africa’s Agriculture, reduce poverty and improve the daily livelihoods of the continent’s citizens.
As indicated in its title, the book reveals Dr. Adesina’s creative transformation agenda in Nigeria, particularly the revolutionary changes that were introduced to the agriculture sector during his tenure as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015 – a key one being elimination of the corruption in the country’s fertilizer sector.
The government was crowded out of farm input procurement and distribution, while the entire process was placed in the hands of the private sector. He also launched Growth Enhancement Support schemes and introduced national biometric registration for farmers, the first in the history of the country and Africa.
The government then turned to the power of mobile phones and launched a national electronic wallet system for farmers. Farmers were provided with electronic vouchers on their mobile phones to pay for 50% of the cost of fertilizers bought directly from the private sector input dealers. The system ensured that the fertilizers reached the farmers and ended 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer sector.
Also, a new financial ecosystem was created, involving mobile phone companies, commercial banks, insurance companies, seed and fertilizer companies, and transport and logistic companies, all linked to the agriculture sector.
Between a four-year period, over 15 million farmers received their subsidized fertilizers. The share of farmers that received subsidized fertilizers rose from 11% to 94% and the government saved more than $188 million from the efficiency of the new system. Nigeria’s food production also increased by an additional 21 million MT.
The book also provides critical analysis and insight into Dr. Adesina’s assumption on September 1, 2015, as the first Nigerian and first Agricultural and Development Economist to become President of the African Development Bank. His process of reconfiguring and repositioning the bank to become more effective in helping African Regional Member Countries achieve equally revolutionary changes in agriculture, via the Feed Africa strategy; along other four complementary development priorities for the institution — Light up and Power Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa was also underscored.
The African Development Bank is now expanding the e-wallet system to several African countries, including Liberia, Togo, Benin, Kenya, Malawi, while the World Bank has expanded it to Afghanistan.
“At the African Development Bank, we have worked very hard. In my four years as President, we have connected 16 million people to electricity, provided 70 million people with improved agricultural technologies to achieve food security, given 9 million people access to finance from private sector companies, provided 55 million people with access to improved transport, and 31 million people with access to water and sanitation. In all 181 million people have directly benefited from our investments.
“I am proud of all my staff and the Board of Directors whose hard work and relentless support have helped make this happen. The African Development Bank has continued to maintain its global AAA Rating. Last year, the bank was rated 4th most transparent institution globally”.
“There is still much to do however. We have gone some way climbing the steep mountainside of Africa’s development, yet there’s till much way to go until we reach the mountaintop of our collective dreams of a better Africa as I look forward for a more fulfilling second term at the helm of the AfDB! I wish to immensely thank and appreciate Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari for nominating me for a second term for re-election as President of the African Development Bank and for being such a wonderful champion and supporter of my re-election”, he said