Africa 2016 conference opens in Egypt, President Buhari calls for war against hunger

Ben Adam Shemang, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

President Buhari at the conference in Egypt

As the African 2016 conference  also known as Africa 2016 Business For Africa,, Egypt and the World, opens, the Nigerian president has called for an end to hunger that plagues the continent.

He told his fellow African leaders that  the priority of his administration is to ensure national food security before export of food products.

President Buhari said this while contributing to a Presidential Panel Roundtable on Investment and Growth Opportunities at the conference which is taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt’s famous tourism centre.

President Buhari stressed that Nigeria being a mono-economy dependent on oil, and with a teeming unemployed youth population, the way out of the current slump in the global oil market, is for the administration to focus on agriculture and solid minerals development.“The land is there and we need machinery inputs, fertilizer and insecticides,”he said.

Reiterating his opposition to the devaluation of the naira, President Buhari said Nigeria cannot compete with developed countries which produce to compete among themselves and can afford to devalue their local currencies.

“Developed countries are competing among themselves and when they devalue they compete better and manufacture and export more. But we are not competing and exporting but importing everything including toothpicks. So, why should we devalue our currency?” the President asked.

According to him, “We want to be more productive and self-sufficient in food and other basic things such as clothing. For our government, we like to encourage local production and efficiency.” He added that those who have developed taste for foreign luxury goods should continue to pay for them rather pressure government to devalue the naira.

President Buhari, who expressed optimism that Nigeria would get out of its current economic downturn, noted that another major problem militating against economic revival is the huge resources deployed towards fighting insurgency and international terrorism. He, however, commended the support being received from the international community in the administration’s fight against terrorism as well as cooperation in tracing looted funds stashed away in foreign countries.

In his opening address at the Forum, the Egyptian President, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, said Africa needs to concentrate on transforming into knowledge societies using innovation and research

President El-Sisi called on African leaders and African business tycoons to first invest in the continent because of the huge and untapped resources available in the continent.

The Presidents of Gabon, Ali Obong Odimba said that the fact that prices of crude oil are falling at the international market does not mean the end of the road for the continent.

Odimba had to explain why his country has restrictions when it comes to employing foreigners in his country even as there are calls for Africa to look inward “I don’t think that is a fair comment. What is more important for us, is to many African countries. We are faced with the same situation, we are faced with more than 60% huge number of youths coming to look for job and we have to look for jobs for our own youths, so every country has restrictions”.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, HaileMaryam Desalegn says the government there has a policy of not allowing foreign banks to operate in the country.  “for us the strategic sectors are not those sectors people are telling us. That service is strategic. For us agric sector and productive sector are strategic. As a nation we feel that we are thinking pragmatically not ideologically as far as investment is concerned/ when we say pragmatically in Ethiopia government policy is that at this moment, the financial sector, foreign banks are not allowed in Ethiopia to operate. We have economic crisis we have been negotiating with foreign banks for years to five at least 60%of their loans to our small and medium enterprises but none of them agreed”, the Ethiopian leader explained.

In his opening message, the President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Akinwumi Adesina, said that “Africa must think big, act big and develop big.”

Dr Adesina said that Africa must not continue to rely on developed countries to feed tithe continent as he said “there is no reason why Africa is a net food importing region, spending over $35 billion importing food. Africa must feed itself and Africa must become a global power house in food and agriculture. With 65% of all the arable land left in the world to feed 9 million people by 2050, Africa will have to feed the world. The bank will accelerate support for massive agricultural transformation across Africa”

Before departing Egypt, President Buhari and his Egyptian host, had a bilateral discussion on security, military cooperation, agriculture and solid minerals development.