The President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has announced that Africa’s premier financial institution would be investing $24 billion dollars to help boost the agricultural sector over the next 10 years across Africa.

Adesina made this announcement at the commissioning of the Akinwumi A. Adesina Building named after him on 24 July, at the Business Incubation Platform in IITA.

The commissioning of the Agripreneurs building was part of IITA’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Speaking further on the investment, Adesina said that the funds, which is 400% more than what the bank invested in the past will focus on agricultural value chains, agro-industrial development and investment in the young generation of farmers.

He said the bank’s decision to invest in the youth came at a time when Africa needs the younger generation to venture into the agricultural sector to create commercial farmers who would embrace agriculture as a business and help feed Africa.

“I firmly believe that the future millionaires and the billionaires of Africa will come from the agriculture sector and I will tell you why. Africa today as you heard was spending $35 billion a year in importing food. That is $35 billion it should be keeping on the continent; that’s $35 billion these young people should be making money from in terms of creating wealth,” he stated.

In view of this, Adesina said the bank invested $800 million in 2016 in the ENABLE Youth program and will be extending the benefit of the program to 15 more African countries this year to give young people the opportunity of tapping into the resources provided by the bank. The program aims at creating jobs for unemployed graduates in agriculture.

“When the program was designed, it was supposed to provide jobs for 37,000 young people in Nigeria, 1,000 per state. When you think about it, that means each of them can employ 5 people each and that is 185,000 jobs. We must change our approach to helping young people. We don’t need youth empowerment programs. What we need is youth investment programs and if one of these young people get $15,000 to grow their businesses, that would be $1.8 billion in terms of financing,” he said.

He, however, called on the private sector to emulate IITA by prioritizing investment in the youth and creating platforms that will help create jobs for them in Africa.

“IITA under the leadership of Dr Sanginga took up this youth-in-agribusiness initiative, developed and nurtured it, and groomed these Agripreneurs. Throughout my time as a Minister, I visited these Agripreneurs and some people at that time wondered what IITA, a research institute was doing in training young people in agriculture. In my view, IITA saw the future. They saw the need to change the labor composition of the agricultural sector with younger commercial farmers and agribusinesses, and I think that is worthy of emulation.” he added.

Also speaking at the event, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and IITA’s goodwill ambassador, HE Olusegun Obasanjo said the IITA Youth Agripreneur (IYA) model should be replicated in other parts of Nigeria and Africa at large.

Abisola Adedigba, who also delivered a speech on behalf of Agripreneurs, stated that the IYA journey into “agripreneurship” was a challenging one but was worth it. She said some of her colleagues have been able to establish independent profitable agribusiness enterprises after their incubation program in IITA.

She expressed optimism about the future of African agriculture as many youth Agripreneurs are poised to ensure that they create jobs through agribusiness.

The ceremony witnessed presentation of gifts, testimonies from Agripreneurs, and a debate on the topic “Agribusiness start-up for youth, loan vs grant.”