The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has stated that Africa spends $35 billion annually on food imports.
He made this known while delivering his Norman Borlaug Lecture at Iowa State University, titled: "Betting on Africa to Feed the World," in Des Monies, Iowa in the United States.
Specifically, he said it is unacceptable by his estimates, if the current trend continues stressing that Africa is estimated to spend $110 billion by 2030 on food imports.
Adesina therefore called for land tax for unused agricultural land, to provide incentives for faster commercialisation of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.
The AfDB boss said Africa holds the key for feeding nine billion people by 2050, adding that more than ever before, the world must help Africa to rapidly modernise its agriculture and unlock its full potential.
According to Adesina, the challenge of addressing global food security is the greatest in Africa.
He said that close to 300 million people were malnourished on the continent due to this challenge.
Africa, he added, is the only region of the world where its proportion of the population that is food insecure is on the increase.
He added, "There is therefore absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food importing region. Africa has huge potential in agriculture, but, as Dr. Borlaug used to say, nobody eats potential. Unlocking that potential, we must start with the Savannah of Africa which covers mind boggling 600 million hectares of which 400 million hectares are cultivable.
"Africa sits on 65 per cent of the uncultivated arable land left in the world, so what Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world. African farmers need more than a helping hand. They need a policy lift."
Adesina said that Africa was the last frontier for the late Borlaug, the Founder of the World Food Prize, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world.
He said that in spite of the progress globally in food production including Africa, Latin America and Asia, the world still had 700 million people languishing in extreme poverty.
He said: "This includes 800 million with chronic hunger, two billion people with micronutrient deficiency and 150 million children under five years of age that are suffering from stunting. The challenge of feeding the world is immense, with need for rapid increases in global food, feed and biofuel production to feed a global population of nine billion people by 2050. If Dr. Borlaug alone can feed one billion people, we definitely can feed 800 million people globally and we definitely can feed 300 million Africans."
Adesina said that to transform agriculture, Africa needs to make a decision to develop new agrarian systems, one that combines smallholder farmers with a new dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.
He advocated for land tenure systems that made it easier to get access to land and for smallholder farmers and their communities to have secure land rights.