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Funding Should Support Agricultural Development in Africa, Says Expert

Harvard Professor Calestous Juma says increasing funding for agriculture would improve African economies as a whole

The chairman of the African Development Bank (ADB) has reportedly said the bank will triple its capital to support development in Africa.

Chairman Donald Kaberuka reportedly said Thursday African shareholders have decided to increase the bank's capital by 200 percent to finance development on the African continent.

African Development Bank Chair Donald Kaberuka
African Development Bank Chair Donald Kaberuka

Kenyan-born Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at Harvard University’s Kennedy School said he hopes the money, if and when it becomes available, would be used to support agricultural development.

“One of the limiting factors in the past was the ability of the African continent to leverage resources to fulfill its objective. And I think the decision of the bank goes a long way in helping the African countries to align their objectives with the availability of financial resources,” he said.

The ADB’s pledge comes nearly a month after newly elected African Union Chairman and President of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika pledged to champion investment in agriculture to end chronic hunger in Africa.

Juma said Mr. Mutharika brings credibility when it comes to transforming an agricultural economy.

“The president of the African Union, President Bingu wa Mutharika brings two things to the table. One, he brings an example of a country that has reversed hunger and famine and become an exporter of food. But he’s very focused on how to sustained productivity by investing in science and technology,” Juma said.

He said the African Development Bank’s pledge is to triple its capital to support development in Africa would be extremely critical Mutharika’s focused view of how to transform agricultural economies.

Juma said the new AU chairman also has the experience of fighting corruption so that if and when the new funding comes it would be used for its intended purposes.

African Union chair and Malawi President Mutharika
African Union chair and Malawi President Mutharika

“I think again the president of Malawi when he took over power the first thing he did was to fight corruption. And I think the combined vision provided by him on agriculture will focus on fighting corruption and making sure that public affairs are properly managed are very important,” Juma said.

Juma said he’s working on a report to be released later this year which he said amplifies the vision of new AU chairman President Mutharika on feeding Africa through agricultural innovation.

“This is a project funded by the Gates Foundation to help provide African leaders with the idea on how to promote agricultural production through regional organizations like ECOWAS, the East African Community, SADC and others as a vehicle for expanding agricultural production. The reason why this is important is because up to 70 percent of Africa’s economy is accounted for by agriculture. Therefore if you improve agriculture, you also improve the economy as a whole,” Juma said.