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By Derrick Bangura
President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) to activate the $19 billion pledge, meant for land restoration, tree planting, development of climate resilience infrastructure and investments in small- and medium-sized farms.
The president, while calling on development partners to support the One Planet Summit initiative, also underscored the importance of recharging Lake Chad, now down to 10 per cent of its water volume, as 11 Sahel nations discussed ways and means of accessing the $19 billion pledged by donors for the activities of the Pan African Great Green Wall Agency (PAGGW).
Speaking on Monday in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, at a side event he convened at the ongoing UN Conference of Parties, COP15, in his capacity as the president of the Conference of Heads of State and Governments of the member states of the PAGGW, Buhari said the fund would also support smallholder farmers, create an institutional framework to enhance security, stability and governance, and capacity building.
“All of you may wish to know that, in December 2021, I was elected to lead and drive the Agenda of the PAGGW bloc for the next two years. This bloc, which includes Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Sudan, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Mali, Eritrea, Djibouti, Burkina Faso and Chad, is facing dire and present danger due to the devastating effect of desertification and drought, which is impacting negatively on the security of our communities and the livelihood of our people,” said Buhari.
“There is, therefore, an urgent need to confront these challenges associated with desert encroachment and drought,” he added.
The president explained that the inter-basin transfer of water from Central Africa to the Lake Chad should be taken seriously, asking the secretariat of the agency, funders and the soon-to-be appointed consultant to carry out the measure as a way of restoring the socio-economy of the more than 30 million people of the Lake Chad basin area.
The president canvassed more support for The One Planet Summit initiative and the political will to actualise the mandate.
“It is on this note that, on behalf of member states, I welcome The One Planet Summit Initiative that pledges $19 billion to support the activities of the PAGGW, which necessitated this very important engagement with you this morning,” stressed Buhari.
“I, therefore, call on you, especially the World Bank, African Development Bank and the One Planet Summit Initiative, to support this drive.”
The president also called on the multilateral institutions to set up a task team to work with PAGGW.
Also speaking, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed described the meeting as, “a new era in the Great Green Wall programme” and demanded from the agency, the 11 African nations, and the group of donors under the One Planet Summit to be proactive.
“I believe that the capacity and commitment of the secretariat of the PGGWA, working together with UNCCD, and your team will be in the best place to engage with partners to develop the pipeline that will ensure that across the countries we are speaking to today these efforts are made to come to realisation sooner than later,’’ she added.
On his part, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Ibrahim Thiaw, described the coming together of Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti as “a great inspiration,” hoping the $19 billion pledged in Paris in 2021 would “turn the dollars into hectares.”
Food Crisis: Buhari, Adesina Task Africa on Food Production, Reduced Dependency on Foreign Countries
Meanwhile, Buhari and the President of AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina have called on African leaders to decouple the continent from food import dependency and avert looming food crisis by encouraging local production of food.
The duo made the call, while delivering their separate addresses in Abuja, at the opening ceremony of the first Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments (COSAP), with the theme: ‘Strengthening Legislative Leadership for Africa’s Development,’ organised to deliberate on socio-political and economic progress in Africa and build a fairer world for all mankind.
Delivering his opening address, Buhari who was represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo lamented that the COVID-19 induced serious challenge of food security and food inflation.
This he said calls for the need for the continent to free itself from all external mechanism, dependency and guarantee its own system by reducing food import dependency and ensuring increased productivity in agricultural sector of every African country.
Buhari said, “Over 30 million jobs lost since the pandemic with about 26 to 40 million people going into extreme poverty. Various African countries put in place extreme measures to curtail to effect of the virus and limit the socio-economic impact such as lockdowns and stimulus package.
“In Nigeria, our stimulus program was to the tune of about N2.3 trillion. The post economic stimulus package for Africa must go beyond individual efforts that we have made in our countries. There is the need for increased collaboration and integration of efforts to drive sustainable economic growth and recovery across the African continent, our parliaments have a particular role to play aside from the fact that they have been charged to make laws to oversee government budgeting and international borrowing.
“The pandemic induced serious challenge of food security and food inflation is now expected to rise above 12 percent this year. The pandemic also exposes the need for collaboration and networking. So, Africa must sustain cross border supply network that will connect global and domestic markets.
“The agricultural sector is key towards ensuring productivity to improve our GDP. So, we must improve our agricultural production. we must produce our own food and reduce import dependency. The conflict in Ukraine has shown us clearly that we don’t have to be dependent on other countries.
“Africa parliamentary leadership must partner with the Executive, the rivals sector and all other stakeholders to design and implement framework that will support the agricultural sector in tackling food insecurity on the continent. The journey to a sustainable post COVID economic recovery is riddled with so much responsibilities for our government.”
On debt cancellation, which was one of the key issues why the conference was being held, Buhari affirmed that the campaign for debt cancellation for African countries was already gaining traction.
He said, “One key issue during early discussions before this meeting is the issue of debt cancellation for African countries and this initiative is already gaining traction. One of those things that was discussed was the special drawing rights (SDR) of about $650 billion. Of course, there is the argument of how much African continent got. I think it is important to recognise that.
“The Economic Commission for Africa recently proposed that our countries can help their financing needs by leveraging SDR through unbending vehicles such as liquidity sustainability facilities and multilateral and regional programs as well as the poverty reduction and growth plans.”
Similarly, the AfDB President, Adesina in his goodwill message said Africa should be decoupled from food import dependency as must feed itself and do so with pride.
Adesina said, “This conference of speakers must be direct towards tackling the challenges facing our continent. Talking about the challenges it’s not enough, there must be solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the growth and develop Africa as well the rest of the world. The trajectory of economic recovery from the pandemic is shaped by access to vaccines, and on this the divergence between a developed economies and developing economies is stuck.
“We must not be complacent, next pandemic is just around the corner, God help us. Africa must build what I call Healthcare Defense System. This must include development of local vaccines and building quality healthcare infrastructure.
“The Russian war in Ukraine has added another challenge to what we are facing in Africa. the dependency of African countries on Russia and Ukraine, the war disruption has added to looming food crisis in Africa. The African Development Bank has designed a $1.5 billion emergency food production plan to support African countries to avert the looming food crisis.”
On their part, Speakers and heads of African parliaments called on the global community to blacklist countries on the continent where undemocratic governments are in control.
They said the new trend of military coups could set the continent on a reverse gear of many years and erode the developmental gains achieved through constitutional democracy.
South African Speaker, Hon. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, raised the issue, expressing surprise that undemocratic governments were gradually returning to Africa.
She noted that this was against the African Union’s position, which strongly opposed the undemocratic takeover of power.
Corroborating her position, the Speaker of Zimbabwe, Hon. Jacob Matunda, stated that lack of growth in Africa was not due to a lack of ideas but the deliberate plot by the West to keep the continent in stagnation.
According to him, an African leader elected into office by popular will or who comes up with innovative ideas is soon “punished”, through any available method.
The Speakers therefore appealed to the global community not to recognise any African country where a coup brought in the government.
Earlier in his remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said Africa’s democracy was under threat, adding that the present insecurity and rampaging uncertainty across the continent represented the single biggest threat to the well-being of our children.
He lamented that despite Africa coming of age, the continent was far from achieving the highest potential.
He said leaders must invest in Africa’s young people, protecting them, ensuring their health and well-being and providing them with a solid education upon which to build their future.
To deliver on this obligation, the Speaker said they must first ensure that the nations are at peace.
Gbajabiamila therefore, advised his African colleagues to wage the battle for peace with a warrior’s resolve, adding that everything depends on victory over the forces that threaten African children’s future.