IBADAN, Nigeria, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said that African countries needed to embark on a path of agricultural transformation that makes agriculture the real engine for growth.
Obasanjo made the call in his keynote address during the 50th anniversary celebration of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria's southwestern city of Ibadan. He said the food import bill of Africa has remained ridiculously high, hovering around 35 billion U.S. dollars per annum.
"Food demand is projected to rise by at least 20 percent globally over the next 15 years, with the largest increases anticipated in Sub-Sahara Africa and East Asia," he added.
"If nothing is done, the food import bill for Africa will continue to shoot even higher," said the IITA ambassador.
Obasanjo said zero hunger was possible if the leadership in Africa would leverage on the gains made through technology, innovation and research.
"It cannot be achieved on business as usual terms. It can only be achieved if all relevant institutions and actors will give agriculture the attention it deserves," he added.
The former president called for a world without hunger in Africa through deliberate investment in infrastructure, research and development.
According to the former president, the current population growth has made it imperative to put the context of food security on the front burner, to avoid impending famine.
"From time immemorial, man's history has been dotted with bouts of hunger and famine; attempts have been made to explain the nexus between famine and population," he said.
"Current prognosis suggests that if current trends continue, the world's population in 2050 will be in the neighborhood of 9.7 billion," he added.
"It is in this context that food security of the world for present and future generations need to be discussed," Obasanjo said.
According to him, Africa must increase its investment in agriculture, as most countries are far from reaching the set target to allocate 10 percent of all public expenditure to agriculture.
He called for increased support for research and development for the attainment of food security, wealth creation and employment generation.
Obasanjo also called for strategies to encourage women farmers in a more significant way, including access to land, resources and inputs.