In the face of a looming food crisis that could hit Africa and other parts of the world on account of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Norway this week announced that it is providing 100 million Norwegian Kroner (approximately $9.2 million ) to the African Development Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility.
Norway’s Minister for International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim said in Oslo on Thursday: “We must support local food production in Africa to avoid an even bigger food crisis. Norway is glad to provide 100 million Norwegian Kroner to the African Emergency Food Production Facility of the African Development Bank, a longstanding partner for sustainable development.”
In July this year, to prevent a food crisis in Africa, the African Development Bank’s board approved 24 fast-track programs worth $1.13 billion to help Africa mitigate rising food prices and inflation caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. This was part of the $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility that the bank established in May.
The bank’s president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said in Oslo on Thursday: “This facility is supporting 20 million farmers in producing 38 million metric tons of food worth $12 billion. Ensuring food security is of the utmost importance, and we welcome this generous gesture by our partner, the Government of Norway.”
Adesina was on a two-day official visit to Norway. Accompanying him was the bank’s executive director for the Nordic countries, Ireland and India, Ms. Mette Knudsen.
Norway has been a member of the African Development Fund—the African Development Bank Group’s concessionary lending arm to least developed countries—since 1973 and of the African Development Bank since 1982. The country is an important trading partner with Africa, and in 2021, recorded $1 billion in exports to the African continent.
Adesina delivered keynote speeches at an internal leadership summit of the Norwegian fertilizer company Yara International and at the 2022 Norwegian-African Business Association (NABA) Summit. NABA is well known in Africa for mobilizing its 150 member companies to invest in the continent and across several sectors, including agribusiness, energy, technology, and shipping.
He held discussions with Tvinnereim and other senior Norwegian officials, including Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt; State Secretary for International Development Björk Sandkjaer; and Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide; He also met with Norfund’s CEO Tellef Thorleifsson and NORAD Director General Bard Vegard Solhjell.
Discussions centered on various initiatives the African Development Bank is pursuing to address what Adesina described as the triple challenge of Covid, climate and conflict. “There is only one sure way to tackle these three main challenges,” he said. “And that is massively through finance.” He said the continent still needed some $424 billion by the end of 2022 to recover from the tapering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the climate challenge, the African Development Bank Group head said the African Development Fund—the group’s concessional lending arm to Africa’s least developed countries—was opening a climate action window of up to $13 billion in the context of the fund’s 16threplenishment.
Adesina explained that the climate action window was created because nine out of the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change are in Sub-Saharan Africa and depend on African Development Fund resources. He stressed that these countries cannot access resources of the global financing institutions and received only 2% of global climate finance.
Tvinnereim and other officials welcomed the African Development Bank’s implementation of gender-responsive practices and policies, as well as initiatives to bolster youth employment. The bank has in place a gender marker system that assesses and measures gender equality impact of all its projects. On youth, Adesina explained that the institution takes active actions to promote job creation and facilitate access to financing for young entrepreneurs across the continent. This is a strategic priority on which both the Bank and Norway have built a strong partnership.
In terms of investment opportunities, Adesina said there were several good reasons for Nordic business leaders to focus on Africa. One, he said, was the increasingly vibrant fintech ecosystem on the continent, with African fintech companies raising almost $1.5 billion in 2021. Another was the continent’s vast reserves of lithium deposits—some of the largest in the world—which were significant considering the future of electric vehicles and their dependence on lithium ion.
He also underscored renewable energy investment opportunities. He explained to his interlocutors that the bank was mobilizing $20 billion to develop the Desert to Power program in the Sahel, a program that will power the economies of 11 countries with solar, and which will become the world’s largest solar zone.
But far and away the area Africa’s apex development finance institution chief dwelt on was agriculture. He said: “Africa holds huge opportunities in agriculture, with 65% of the remaining uncultivated arable land left to feed the world. So, what Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world. And the size of the food and agriculture market in Africa will reach 1 trillion by 2030. Agriculture is a business and should be treated as a business.”
Adesina met with members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Norwegian Parliament. He gave them an overview of what the African Development Bank was doing to support African countries in addressing the multiple crises they are facing.
“Building strong and resilient economies in Africa is at the center of our mandate,” said Adesina. He added: “As a triple-A institution, we plan to leverage on resources from the international capital market and offer value for money to our shareholders.”
Adesina drew the parliamentarians’ attention to recent awards that the African Development Bank had earned, most notably the one by the global campaign for aid and development transparency, Public What You Fund, in July, naming the bank the most transparent organization for sovereign portfolio in the world. He said this was testament to how efficiently the bank is managed.
Another distinction, he said, was the Center for Global Development’s classification of the African Development Fund as the second among 49 international agencies for the quality of its development assistance, underscoring its relevance to Africa’s most vulnerable countries.
Accompanied by Minister Tvinnereim, Adesina visited the University of Life Sciences in As, where he had discussions with the university’s faculty and students. He also visited the school’s Livestock Production Research Centre and toured neighboring Linnestad Farm.
Before his Oslo visit, Adesina met with senior government and development officials in Sweden.