The African Development Bank (ADB) has confirmed that the African Savannah can support the production of maize, soybean, and livestock, as well as transform the continent into a net exporter of these commodities
The Bank is now 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 United States.
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 percent 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 products 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.
Blanke, who spoke on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, noted that Africa’s entire Savannah is more than twice as large as Brazil’s “Cerrados” that launched that country’s farming economy success.
She said transforming a small part of Africa’s mixed woodland grasslands, in a smart and sustainable way, can produce enough to supply all the continent’s maize, soybean, and livestock requirements.
Brazil transformed its tropical Cerrados into a US$54 billion food industry within two decades through skillful development of production technologies for new crop and livestock varieties; innovative soil and crop management programs adapted to the tropics; wide-scale dissemination of new agricultural technologies; low-interest loans, and ambitious rural development programs.