June 17, 2019 | By Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina

Guest Commentary - My Commitment to Africa's Youth Goes Beyond Donating Money, It Is an Investment In Our Common Future

By Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina
I grew up from a farming background in Nigeria. My story is a microcosm of the story of my continent: Africa. It is a story of resilience, of challenges to be overcome, and of potential to be unlocked.
My upbringing taught me to be optimistic and to find opportunities from hardship, but not all young Africans should be expected to do so.
Africa's youth population, currently estimated at 250 million, is expected to rise to 840 million by 2050, making Africa the youngest continent in the world.
Today, millions of these same young people have no jobs, cannot go to school, and struggle to feed themselves. Many are even taking enormous risks to cross the Mediterranean to seek a brighter future in Europe.
However, the future of Africa's youth does not lie in Europe; it lies in a thriving and more prosperous Africa. Our challenge is to ensure that Africa's economies grow more rapidly and in ways that create quality jobs for its teeming youths.
This undertaking is well within our grasp. Africa today has six out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. It is second only to Asia in attracting foreign direct investment. The continent’s GDP is expected to grow by 4 per cent this year, with almost half of the countries experiencing growth of above 5 per cent.
This is why Africa’s next generation is so important to me. And it is why I have donated $750,000 in prize money that I received from the 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize and as the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate to establish an African Youth Institute. This institute will work with young Africans to give them essential skills to transform Africa’s agricultural sector.
The initiative focuses on agriculture because it is one of the most vital pathways out of poverty. Africa has 65 per cent of the world’s remaining arable land left to feed the world by 2050, yet its productivity lags far behind that of other regions. What Africa is able to do with agriculture will determine not only its own destiny, but the future of global food security as well.
But we must make agriculture exciting for young people. We must help them see that careers in agriculture offer potential for almost every type of talent – from farming itself to processing and marketing, and even to agricultural research and policymaking (where my background lies). 
A vital agricultural sector not only ensures enough food, it also kickstarts a broader wave of rural economic prosperity.
Africa’s youth are tomorrow’s stewards of these resources, yet they need support to embrace such a transition. My mentor, Dr. Norman Borlaug, the late Nobel Peace Prize Winner, once said "nobody eats potential". We are in a race with time to unlock the full potential of Africa.
Of course, philanthropic gestures are not enough on their own. Broader structural support is also needed to light up and power Africa; feed Africa; industrialize Africa; integrate Africa; and improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. When I became President of the African Development Bank, I called these five areas our “High 5” priorities.
Some 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity. The Bank is investing $12 billion in power to help leverage $45-50 billion to accelerate access to electricity for millions of people. 
In collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Safaricom, the Bank is developing 20 computer coding centers across Africa that will provide cutting edge coding skills to help turn the youth into job creators.
And importantly, the Bank is also pursuing a major “Jobs for Youth in Africa” initiative to help create 25 million jobs for its youth across the continent.  It is also investing $300 million in programs to support youths to enter into agribusiness careers. In 2018, around 19 million people gained access to improved agricultural technologies as a result of efforts like these.
Efforts like these are helping the continent blossom. Morocco is home to the world’s largest concentrated solar power system. Rwanda is the first country in the world with a drone port, allowing it to transport blood for transfusion to remote highlands. Africa’s mobile money transfer system allows at least $23 billion to be moved through mobile phones and has served as a model for the world since the earliest systems out of Kenya.
And still, Africa's greatest asset is its young people, who will be responsible for taking this progress fully to scale. For way too long the continent has been known and defined by the negative imagery of famines or wars while its good stories remain shelved.
I have always lived on the basis that it is one’s actions which determine who a person becomes, not one’s beliefs. That is why I will continue to support the continent’s youth, both personally and professionally, so they have as much opportunity to thrive as I have had in my life.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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| By Roger Thurow

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Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.