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October 29th, 2018 / ECOFIN Agency

The African Development Bank is championing a new regional and global effort to transform the African Savannah from a “Sleeping Giant” to the cradle of the continent’s green revolution.

“This sleeping giant needs to wake up,” the Bank’s Vice-President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke, told an audience at a 2018 World Food Prize side event in Des Moines, Iowa last week. Blanke described Africa’s nearly 400 million hectares of Savannah zones as “the world’s largest agricultural frontier,” and if a small fraction of that cultivatable land – some 16 million hectares – is transformed, it could well set Africa up to decrease dependence on food imports, feed itself and contribute to feeding the world.

Africa is host to 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, but currently spends an estimated US$35 billion per year on importing food. This figure is projected to shoot up to US$110 billion by 2025. Africa is importing what it should actually be producing: 22 million metric tons of maize, two million metric tons of soybean, one million metric tons of broiler meat and 10 million metric tons of milk product each year. This situation is made worse when African countries export raw goods outside the continent to be processed into consumer products imported back into Africa for purchase. In essence, Africa is exporting jobs outside the continent, and contributing to Africa’s poverty challenges.

The African Development Bank has determined that the African Savannah can support the production of maize, soybean, and livestock, and transform the continent into a net exporter of these commodities. Only ten percent of the African Savannah is under cultivation – better utilized, small sections of Africa’s grasslands could provide direct jobs for tens of millions of young people and indirect jobs for many more. Read more