African countries import $50b worth of food annually –AfDB

The African Development Bank (AfDB) says African countries import nearly 50 billion dollars net of food annually.

The bank’s Vice-President for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke, said this at a panel discussion at the 7th Tokyo International Conference in Japan, according to a statement by AfDB’s Communication and External Relations Department.

The conference which began on August 28 in Tokyo ended on August 30, news agency Voice of Nigeria reports.

The theme of the conference was: “Advancing Africa’s Development through People, Technology, and Innovation.’’

Blanke explained that it was unfortunate that despite that the continent was holding 60 percent of the world’s arable land, it still imported food.

She said investing in Africa’s food markets, governments could win the fight against stunting and improve nutrition across the continent.

Blanke said that with support from institutions like the AfDB, the results would be a win-win situation for all.

“There is a business case for governments to invest in grey matter, or brainpower, and this requires much more nutritious diets.

“With most people in Africa getting their food from local markets, business opportunities for healthy foods abound everywhere in the food system and potential investors are urged to engage and explore,”  he said.

Blanke, however, added that women in agriculture were an overlooked stakeholder group, since in most parts of Africa, most farmers were women.

She disclosed that the bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative known as AFAWA, sought to support women entrepreneurs in Africa.

According to her, through AFAWA the AfDB aimed to raise at least 300 million dollars for a guarantee facility that will spur lending to African women entrepreneurs.