Speeches & Transcripts

Mobilizing Agricultural Science and Technology for Ending Poverty in Africa and Beyond

June 5, 2013

World Bank Africa Region Vice President Makhtar Diop Beijing, China

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the honor of your invitation. 

This is my second visit to China since being appointed Vice President for Africa at the World Bank.  I look forward to nurturing the China-World Bank partnership particularly on today’s vital topic: mobilizing agricultural science and technology for ending poverty, in Africa and beyond. 

We meet at a critical time in the global economy.  Even as industrialized countries are suffering from anemic growth rates, Sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 countries are booming with growth rates of five percent and more.  Demand for food is rising globally, and food prices are more volatile.  Adding to this complex mix, we know that climate change will impact Africa’s agricultural potential, particularly in dry land areas that are home to a majority of poor people.

As you may be aware, under the leadership of our new President, Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank has set new goals for ending poverty and achieving shared prosperity in our lifetime.

Reducing the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day to three percent by 2030 and increasing the incomes of the bottom 40 percent of the population in every developing country will require a thriving agricultural sector that provides jobs, food and income security, as well as greater, more open market access and trade, including within Africa.

I am here to talk about Africa and its unrealized – but achievable – potential in the farm sector.

China feeds nearly 20 percent of the human family.  Africa can and must benefit from the wealth of China’s experiences in sustainable food production and rural transformation. 

Nowhere is the need for an agricultural transformation greater than in Africa’s dryland areas.  In the Sahel sub-region, over 10 million people are facing chronic food insecurity.  In the Horn of Africa, over 8.32 million people are facing a stressed or crisis phase of food insecurity.  We are taking a strategic, regional approach to tackling these challenges focusing on reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience, and promoting greater economic opportunity and integration.

The World Bank is committed to making a positive difference in Africa’s farm economy.

Given the importance of the agricultural sector, the World Bank’s Action Plan commits us to providing $8-$10 billion annually. A significant portion of this, up to one-third, is being directed to the specific needs of Africa’s farm sector.

We have scaled-up the World Bank’s agricultural program in Africa quantitatively and qualitatively.   Notably, we are:

  • Expanding our lending program, from US$0.4 billion in 2008 to US$1.2 billion a year.  In addition to budget support and traditional investment projects, these investments will support public-private partnerships and larger, sub-regional operations that generate economies of scale and transformational impact.
  • Working to boost Africa’s irrigated area, from 20 percent currently to 40 percent by 2030.  This goal will require US$40 billion, with the Bank potentially financing one-quarter of the investment needed.
  • Moving from modest and fragmented pilot efforts to bold, systematic projects in land administration.  It is time for a big push to scale-up best practices, and we aim to deliver at least two new land administration projects per year, US$150 million each, leading to at least US$1.5 billion over 10 years.  A target worth striving for would be to reduce time required for registering property from 65 days to 30.
  • Working to increase market access, remove trade barriers, and improve competitiveness to double food trade in ten years.  We want to be ambitious, improve trade, transport, infrastructure and food safety systems with a 10-year target of cutting by half the costs of bringing produce to market.

These are some examples of how we can achieve catalytic, transformational impact in Africa’s farm economy. 

Overall, the focus of our investments will be on achieving the big prize of truly transformational change by: raising agricultural productivity particularly in dryland areas, linking farmers to markets, strengthening value chains, reducing risk and vulnerability, promoting gender equality and enhancing the environmental contribution of agriculture in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To help meet these goals, we believe that Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) offers tremendous hope of achieving the triple wins of increasing farmers’ incomes, helping them adapt to future climatic changes, and contributing to the battle against global warming. 

It is well known in development literature that the Green Revolution which transformed food production in Asia and Latin America bypassed Africa.

We are here to change the trajectory of Africa’s future agricultural development.

For Africa to bring about its own sustainable Green Revolution – or Ever Green Revolution – we need to work together to strengthen our collaboration, work together more on strategic partnerships that are focused on the special needs of small farmers, all with a view to raising the productivity and profitability of Africa’s farm sector.

We need more South-South learning and sharing of experiences.  This is an area where our host, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and Brazil’s EMBRAPA can play a signal role in bringing about the new partnerships needed for Africa’s agricultural sector to thrive.  China’s successes in the Loess Plateau and Brazil’s transformation of the cerrado provide valuable lessons of experience.

The good news is that change is happening, as more and more African countries are recognizing the latent power of their agricultural sector in delivering sustainable reduction in poverty.

In 2003, 53 African countries agreed to work together to scale-up agricultural investments, strengthen planning and programming, expanding evidence-based policy making and improving coordination among external partners.  The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) was born with the blessings of the African Union Commission.

Today, CAADP at its tenth anniversary has achieved noteworthy successes.

  • 17 African countries have met, or surpassed the CAADP target of 6  percent agricultural growth
  • 40 African countries received CAADP support to help them achieve their agriculture and food security goals.
  • CAADP has enabled systems for African leadership, collective action and peer review.
  • Record high inflows of ODA to African agriculture have been achieved – US$ 4 billion annually in 2010 and 2011.

One of the most important outcomes of CAADP-led processes has been donor harmonization and alignment. 

CAADP is an Africa-focused, African-led, African-owned and African-implemented program.  One of the most important developments for which CAADP can be given credit is that development partners – including the World Bank – have aligned their strategies to support CAADP priorities.

As we look forward to a new era of scientific collaboration, I am sure that the CGIAR which led the Green Revolution can now rededicate itself to bringing the best of modern science for the benefit of African farmers. 

I would like to call upon this great assembly to dedicate ourselves to this important task of improving African agriculture.  I am sure it can be done with your support. 

There has never been a better time to change the trajectory of African agriculture through a focus on greater productivity, more equity, and more sustainable farming practices.  Thank you.