African banker wins World Food Prize

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Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, has won the 2017 World Food Prize.

The award is usually dubbed as the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture.

Adesina has toiled for many years to increase food production in Nigeria. He has also increased access to credit for small farmers and influenced agricultural policies throughout Africa.

“I believe that what Africa does with agriculture and how it does it is not only important for Africa, but it’s important for how we’re going to feed the world by 2050, because 65 per cent of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world is in Africa,” Adesina told the international media.

He added to help Africa get it right in agriculture is also going to be a key part of securing food for the world.

World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn said those goals are one reason the World Food Prize Federation chose Akinwumi Adesina for the U$D250,000 prize.

“When I look at Africa today, I see that many rural areas, unfortunately, have become zones of economic misery,” Adesina told the Reuters news agency.

The African Development Bank chief is the son of a Nigerian farm worker. He worked his way out of poverty through education. He was able to go to college after his father was chosen for a government job.

The young man continued his studies in the United States. He earned graduate degrees in agricultural economics from Purdue University.

Adesina said agriculture has the greatest chance to improve lives in areas that are most critical. But he said investments are needed to make young people want to become farmers. He noted that many young people risk their lives by leaving Africa for Europe in search of work.

“We must make agriculture ’cool’ for young people,” he said. “The key is to make agriculture a business. Agriculture is not a way of life, (it) is not a development activity, it’s a business.”

Adesina said he often thinks of the hundreds of millions of young, rural Africans whose chances for economic success are limited.

“So in a way for me, this is not a job. This is a mission,” he said.