President of African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has said that improved agriculture could help Africa to solve its growing economic challenges.
Listing lack of access to water, growing insecurity, air pollution and huge traffic congestions as major challenges facing African cities, Adesina noted that people, especially the youth leave rural arrears for cities, not because they like cities as such, but simply because they lack opportunities in rural environments.
He said, more importantly, they do not get the expected returns from their agricultural activities; a situation he said was made worse by lack of basic services such as infrastructure, health and education.
‘’Therefore, one way of solving the challenges of cities is to slow down the flow of people to urban areas is to make rural areas attractive by turning agriculture into an attractive venture’’, he stated.
According to him, there has to be a change on how agriculture is perceived. It should be seen as a business that can raise farmers’ incomes, and improve their status beyond that of simply managing poverty.
The AfDB President said: “We must ensure that small farmers, the majority of whom are women, are supported to have accelerated access to improved farm inputs in order to raise agricultural productivity. If agriculture works we can keep the young people in rural areas. Making agriculture a business would then help solve some of African cities’ problems”.
On traffic congestion, the former Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that so much productivity is lost in urban areas when people spend hours in traffic on the highways to get to work.
This is even as he noted that air pollution remained a situation that needed to be looked at seriously in terms of ensuring good quality of life in the cities.
To tackle these challenges, he suggested innovative financing solutions as well as capacity building for city planning and management, adding that “we need to manage our resources well, make sure taxes are well managed, and take good decisions. This will help solve our problems.”
According to him, other solutions include, participation of citizens in the management of cities, arguing that this would make them more responsible as they become part of the solution as stakeholders and not just recipients of services.