Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), a flagship programme from the African Development Bank (AfDB), has hosted its maiden edition of TAAT investors forum in African agriculture, targeted at boosting food production and sufficiency in the continent.
The investors forum, held virtually in Abidjan, Cote D’ Ivoire, recently, was aimed at connecting innovative agricultural technologies emerging from research and development (R&D) to private sector partners who can adopt them for transformation. In his opening address, the Director, Agriculture and Agro-Industry, AfDB, Dr. Martin Fregene, noted that TAAT is the bank’s number two priority, which is feed Africa, even as he described it as a bold and ambitious effort to raise food production on the continent by hundred million tonnes every year through reaching forty million farmers with the best available production technologies. “We estimate that that hundred million food could lead to additional food produced every year, could reduce hunger by 80 per cent. Today, Africa has about 280 million people.
If you just take a rule of thumb that an average African eats a tonne of food every year, so hundred million additional tonnes of food will reduce hunger by 80 per cent. That’s a lot. It will also cut food import by half. Africa, today, imports about N47 billion worth of food, so, another hundred million tonnes of food will cut food import by half.
“Like you know, since 2018, TAAT has got some important achievements, including helping Sudan and Ethiopia to reach 50 and 80 per cent self sufficiency in wheat, respectively. In Ethiopia, wheat was growing in highland, but with TAAT interventions, wheat is now grown in low lands. We began in 2018/2019 and, by this year, we have gone from 5,000 hectares in low lands to 400,000 hectares. This is driven by technology. Farmers see a very highly productive crops, farmers also see a crop easy to grow and a huge gross margin and they got involved.
“So, TAAT is surely succeeding, but we need to replicate our skill. TAAT is about technologies, but it is also about skill and, most importantly, it’s about partnership. That’s why this meeting is so important. How do we get the private sector interested to invest in TAAT? “At the core of TAAT is the compact and the compact is actually an essential innovation platform and they bring together the private sector, they bring together government, they bring together national and international agricultural research systems and they bring together regional and continental agricultural research network just to ensure that farmers get the best technologies,” he said He informed that a critical look at the history of the large scale deployment of agricultural technologies, either in Asia or Latin America, would reveal that scaling up of millions of farmers of new technologies could only be done by government or the private sector. He, however, noted that in many African countries where there were fragile government with limited capacity, the private sector becomes a very important player.
Speaking on why the private sector was so important and why more efforts should be put in to attract the private sector into TAAT, Fregene pointed out that economic motivation drives the private sector, adding that for government, whether things happen or not, they get paid, but for the private sector, if they don’t have a product that the market accepts, they don’t earn a salary.
“So, we really need a private sector to create an efficient, profitable environment, so that we can attract more finance and the private sector, like you all know, helps to develop value chains. You have Babanguna’s Farming Company up in Kaduna with almost two hundred thousand farmers and provides seeds, provides mechanisation and then, provides access to market and they do all that by access to finance, both within and outside the country,” he said. He posited that efforts should be geared towards protecting intellectual property as a means of creating incentives for the private sector to get involved.