AfDB in new drive to spur agric industrialisation

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Pivot centres irrigate a maize plantation at the Bramin & MINIMEX company in Kirehe District. (File)

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched a plan to boost agriculture industrialisation across the continent.

The new plan will see the AfDB scale up financial support for the production of crops with the highest potential to industrialise and support manufacturing on the continent.

Top on the list is cassava, which according to experts could be used to produce ethanol for industrial use and other frequently utilised home products.

Martin Fregene, the bank’s advisor to the vice president in charge of agriculture said the plan is to support crop production of cassava and its rapid industrial processing to help farmers boost household incomes.

“We want to provide the best avenue for more farmers to benefit from the crop,” he told The New Times.

Africa produces 50 percent of the cassava in the world and yet it accounts for just 5 percent of all processed starch in the world.

And according to Fregene focus will mainly be on building value chains through partnerships with research and development organisations to help create more crop varieties.

According to Naoko Koyama, the head of financial strategy and Business Development Expert at AfDB, boosting crop production will enable African countries including Rwanda to substitute imports worth $680 million – money that is currently spent on the purchase of industrial ethanol and products used in the manufacture of spirits, beer and industrial sweeteners.

“Developing the cassava value chain is one of the best opportunities that Africa could capture by industrialising,” Koyama said.

The session highlighted how cassava offers the best opportunities for the industrialisation of Africa’s agriculture due to the demand for industrial products developed from the crop. 

The demand for cassava on the continent is estimated at about 7.6million higher than 2.5 million produced on the continent presently.

“Therefore the right interventions in this sector could spur huge Gross Domestic Product growth from local suppliers,” Koyama added.

The bank is targeting to work with more than 200,000 smallholder farmers to help boost crop yields.

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