Africa must be weaned off the need for Russian wheat, believes the African Development Bank (AfDB) who has announced plans to raise $1 billion to achieve this goal. This, as global wheat giant Russia continues its war on Ukraine.
The AfDB says its fundraising mission will accelerate the growth of heat-tolerant wheat varieties on the continent by making use of climate-resilient technologies.
Currently, wheat comprises the majority of Africa’s imports from Russia, at 90%. Trade with Ukraine amounts to a total of $4.5 billion per annum.
The bank plans to assist 40 million farmers across Africa to grow and harvest wheat independently, but a challenge is presented when one looks at the impact that climate change has had on the continent’s food systems.
‘The time is now’
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, president of the AfDB, says that efforts are going to be made to “mobilise that money”.
“If there was ever a time that we needed to really drastically raise food production in Africa, for Africa’s food security and to mitigate the impact of this food crisis arising from this war, it is now,” he says to Bloomberg.
Russia has been hit by sanctions as a result of the war, and this has impacted wheat shipments from the country along to its usual trade routes.
Many countries may now face hunger crises because of this, as Russia and Ukraine combined account for more than a quarter of the world’s wheat exports.
Before the war started, a total of 283 million Africans were dealing with hunger and malnourishment. Its onset has only exacerbated this situation.
Becoming more self-sufficient
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has also warned that food costs may surge by another 22% as the war continues.
New climate-smart methods in Ethiopia have already allowed the country to increase its wheat production, and according to Adesina, it can now expect to be self-sufficient. Surplus stores will be sent to countries such as Egypt, which is the world’s top wheat importer.
The AfDB aims to focus on the production of rice and soybeans along with wheat, and the plan is predicted to feed up to 200 million Africans. Adesina will be meeting with various ministers of agriculture and finance across the continent to discuss the funding for the plan.
Furthermore, the AfDB will also be accelerating the closure of 42 financial deals, which have a total value of $58 billion. This includes, among others, a $3.2 billion deal on the East African railway project that will link Tanzania to mining hubs in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Another deal includes a $15 billion road corridor linking Nigeria’s Lagos city to Abidjan on the Ivory Coast.
“We want to help to reverse some of the decline in investment that happened as a result of Covid-19,” Adesina adds. “Project finance declined by about 49%, which impacted infrastructure.”
He adds that the African Import-Export Bank is also currently working on a system that will enable the transfer of funds between different African countries in real time, allowing for independence from American and European banks. This is predicted to save the continent a total of $5 billion in transfer costs.
“We have no option but to make the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) work and to make it work faster,” Adesina concludes.