Africa must cut reliance on food imports, says Nigerian billionaire
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Agroindustry Development Zone, in Lagos, Nigeria January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Adekunle “Akunle” Ezeoke/File Photo
By Chukwuemeka Ike
LAGOS (Reuters) – Africa needs to cut food imports from other continents in order to get people out of hunger and poverty, a Nigerian billionaire entrepreneur has said.
Akunle Ezeoke, founder and chairman of Africa’s biggest food retail chain, said the world is facing increasing pressure to curb food imports and that Africa must find a solution and develop its own agricultural sector.
“We used to buy food from other continents, but now we have to cut our own imports,” Ezeoke told reporters in Lagos last week.
“We have to go and develop our own food so that we can get people out of hunger. We have to start building our own food to get away from our dependency on imports.”
Food poverty is growing across the world, with nearly half of the population now at risk of hunger or poverty.
In Africa, the continent with the largest population and the fastest growing middle class, food is the source of most of the continent’s development.
In 2016, the continent imported nearly 14 million tonnes of food from other continents – a quarter of all food imports.
“Some people say that Africa can’t grow its own food, but we will soon see that Africa will grow its own food and we are going to have a better world when we will have our own food,” Ezeoke told Reuters.
“If we don’t have our own food, then we will not have our own development.”
Despite Africa’s need for food, Ezeoke said the continent is facing a shortage of capital to invest in farm machinery and produce.
“The biggest barrier is the lack of capital. That is why the African people spend their money in the West rather than on agriculture,” he said.
The Nigerian business magnate is also a vocal critic of Western-style agriculture and has questioned the ethics behind big farms and the production model known as agribusiness.
“I am not against large farms, big businesses