Few continents in the world have had quite a time of it as Africa. The proverbial cradle of humanity, the continent and its inhabitants have suffered a variety of catastrophes over the centuries, some inflicted by humans and some not. Even today, vast swathes of Africa remain impoverished and undereducated – 98% of the world’s 800 million undernourished and starving population lives in Africa. What food is readily available tends to be cheap, disposable, and extremely unhealthy. In the poorest regions of Africa, it’s easier to find a bottle of Coca-Cola than a loaf of bread.
From charity drives to awful Christmas songs, it seems as though everyone has tried to pitch in in some way or the other to raise funds, consciousness, and standards of living. But not all salvation can come from the outside, and African nations and leaders are making efforts to get their countries to stand on their own two feet.
African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina is one such leader, and this year, he is being honored with a prestigious World Food Prize for his attempts to boost the sustainability and diversity of farms across the nation. Arising from a poor background himself, Adesina’s impoverished childhood left him with a great sense of empathy for others from his background and a desire to give back to the community that nurtured him.
The first Nigerian to hold office in the African Development Bank, Adesina developed a new distribution system that worked directly with farmers, bypassing the extremely inefficient centralized government that moved seeds and fertilizers along at a snail’s pace – and cracking down hard on no-goodniks hoping to “skim the top” off shipments aimed at poor and impoverished farmers. Under Adesina’s new plan, he reorganized the old distribution centers and re-conglomerated them into five distinct hubs spread out across the continent.
Additionally, Adesina reorganized those offices under his command to focus on five main tenets: energy, agriculture, industrialization, regional integration and quality of life. His efforts include transforming dry African nations like Nairobi or Ethiopia into livable habitats for humans via agricultural developments and crop rotations. In 2017, Dr. Adesina will receive the US $250,000 prize at the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium for his efforts.
But Adesina’s work is only just beginning, and there’s a lot to be done before he can truly transform Nairobi and other impoverished regions into true breadbaskets. In an interview with the BBC, Adesina told interviewers that “I am really somebody who came out of poverty myself, and poverty is not pretty. I know that in order to create opportunities for the several tens of millions of young people in rural Africa today we have to make agriculture a business.”
“For me it’s not a job. It’s my mission.”