Nairobi, Kenya — Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, was awarded the prestigious Forbes Africa Person of the Year defeating four other prestigious nominees for this continent wide prize.
"I am truly honoured and humbled by this prestigious award, which I dedicate to Africa's farmers and the new cadre of young business entrepreneurs who have discovered the hidden gem for sustainable wealth creation on our continent - Agriculture,” said Adesina. “With dwindling oil fortunes, and the end of the telecoms boom, the next big investment frontier is unlocking Africa's vast agricultural potential to feed the continent and the world".
Adesina who was nominated for his bold reforms in Nigeria’s agriculture sector has empowered more than six million farmers across Nigeria to embrace agriculture as a business. A passionate defender of African farmers, Adesina is relentless in unlocking opportunities for farmers and changing Africa's narrative on agriculture to wealth creation, away from poverty reduction.
Within two years of his taking office, Adesina turned agriculture away from being a development program into a business activity generating wealth for millions of farmers. “Africa, with our huge potential, cannot be a museum of poverty” he said. “My passion is using agricultural business and finance innovations to turn Nigerian and African farmers and agribusinesses into millionaires and billionaires. Nigeria must become a global powerhouse in agriculture".
His Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES) ended four decades of corruption in the fertilizer sector, eliminating the middlemen and scaling up food production by nine million metric tonnes in the first year -almost half of the 2015 production target. To further enhance this process, he introduced an Electronic Wallet System which allows smallholder farmers to receive electronic vouchers for subsidized seeds and fertilizers directly on their mobile phones and enable them to pay for farm inputs from private sector agricultural input dealers.
The system has reached over 6 million farmers and enhanced food security for 30 million persons in rural farm households. Women farmers, previously marginalized under the old fertilizer distribution system, now have better yielding fields with subsidized farm inputs received on their mobile phones. Chairperson of Nigerian Women Farmers Association Mrs Lizzy Igbine, said of the Minister "We have never seen any Minister who works so hard to improve our lives. He has returned dignity to us as farmers".
With the success of the electronic wallet system, Nigeria has become the first country in Africa to reach farmers with subsidized farm inputs through their mobile phones. The impact is already being noticed beyond Nigeria with several African countries, Brazil, India and China now expressing interest in adopting the electronic wallet system in their agriculture sectors. Adesina has championed African agriculture for over two decades, defending the poor and helping several African countries to develop innovative solutions for reaching millions of farmers with finance, farm inputs and supportive policies.
In recognition of Nigeria’s reforms and progress, global and domestic investors have signed over USD 4 billion of executed letters of investments to boost Nigeria's agriculture. The World Bank, African Development Bank and other global development finance institutions have put up over USD 2 billion in support of his bold initiatives.
"Adesina has totally revolutionized agriculture into a business, and banks and private investors are all moving to the agriculture sector. He has made agriculture very exciting, turning it into Nigeria's new oil" said Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings.
Often referred to as 'Africa's leading development entrepreneur', he was appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as one of the 17 global leaders, along with Bill Gates, to help the world to achieve the Millennium Goals. Bill Gates, who sits on the Eminent Persons Group that advises President Goodluck Jonathan on Nigeria's agriculture, called Adesina's policies and reforms of agriculture "extraordinary".
Sharing his vision for a food secured continent, Adesina said he dreams of a future where Africa’s vast savannas are revived with crops, where large commercial and smallholder farmers co-exist and both prosper. Where rail, road and port systems are improved. Where open international markets enable more food to move from places of surplus to places of need. Where rising incomes bring millions of farmers into Africa’s emerging middle class.
“The results achieved in Nigeria could not have been possible without the immense support of Nigeria's President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. His passion and leadership inspires us that we can achieve even greater results. For agriculture was Nigeria's past and in agriculture - as a business - lies Nigeria's greater future,” Adesina added.