Africa must feed itself

Consensus at Duisenberg Lecture

Food production in Africa has been lagging far behind demand in recent years. One out of five Africans also goes to bed hungry every day. Financial inclusion is a prerequisite for increasing African food production.

This was the core message of the twelfth Duisenberg Lecture in Washington DC on 8 October 2016. Rabobank organises this annual event in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Special guests included Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, Ertharin Cousin (Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme) and Wiebe Draijer (Chairman of the Executive Board of Rabobank).

Going to bed hungry

Africa was a food exporter only a generation ago. The continent is currently a net importer of food. While 20 percent of rice produced in Southeast Asia that is traded on the world market was exported to Africa in the early 1990s, this amount has now risen to one-third. Nevertheless, one out of five Africans still goes to bed hungry. The continent’s population is also expected to grow exponentially in the coming decades from 1.2 billion now to around 4 billion in 2100.

Unused agricultural land

One of the conclusions reached at the Duisenberg Lecture is that there must be an increase in food production in Africa in order to feed all those mouths now and in the future. There is also considerable room for improvement. For example, the average yield of agricultural land realised by European and American farmers is about 8 percent (of the feasible maximum), compared to 20 percent in Africa. In addition, more than half of all the world’s unused agricultural land is in Africa. 'Africa must feed itself,' concluded United Nations World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin at the Duisenberg Lecture. 'It can feed itself, it has the resources. And there is really no alternative.'

Financial inclusion

Queen Máxima explained in her address that financial inclusion is a critical prerequisite for improving financial inclusion and noted the vast potential benefits that could be achieved through increasing access to financial services. The Queen spoke about the need for policy reforms to enhance access to financial services for specific target groups such as SMEs, women and smallholder farmers. 'Financial inclusion is seen as a key enabler to reach many of the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ said the Queen. 'We cannot expect to achieve success in the field of basic healthcare, education and food security if we do not improve access to financial services. Large sections of the populations of both development countries and the European Union and the United States are either unbanked or underbanked.’

ARISE as example

Rabobank Executive Board Member Berry Marttin concurs with Queen Máxima’s message: 'At this Duisenberg Lecture we are calling attention to the necessity of financial inclusion and our contribution to global food security ensuing from our role in society.' Marttin referred to ARISE as an example of the bank’s role in society. This fund was launched earlier this year by Rabobank, FMO (Entrepreneurial Development Bank) and Norfund (Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries) with the objective of investing in financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rabobank, FMO and Norfund can collectively increase their investment in expanding access to financial services to 1 billion dollars through ARISE. The collaboration also provides opportunities for creating synergy between the banks, for example in the field of international payments and trade finance. ARISE has been welcomed as an extremely innovative initiative in the field of financial inclusion at both the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank and other gatherings.

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