The African Development Bank (AfDB) has pledged its overwhelming support to Liberia’s economic diversification agenda from the traditional export commodities such as Iron ore and rubber to the agriculture sector.
AfDB president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said though agriculture has enormous potential, it has never been at the core of the government’s economic growth strategy in the past, noting that Liberia has all that is desired to become a global bread basket.
The decision to prioritize the sector now, he said, is laudable.
Dr. Adesina made these comments at a joint press stakeout with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office as part of his two-day visit to Liberia.
He said Liberia should have the potential for a very big breadbasket – whether it is in cocoa, coffee, rubber and oil palm industries. He called for value addition in cassava and rice as well as other locally produced food.
Dr. Adesina said his administration would do everything in its power for President Sirleaf to succeed in her development agenda, especially the agriculture transformation program, manifested by the support the bank will provide.
He pledged the Bank’s commitment to support both the energy and agriculture sectors of Liberia, which will be followed by the launch of what he called the “New Deal of Energy for Africa.” He spoke about the Bank’s plan to invest in the social development sector to deal with the backlog of challenges, which emanated from the Ebola outbreak.
He noted that Liberia is so blessed with vast landscape, forest and running rivers and streams, adding the country was sitting on a boom of a “Big Bread Basket.”
The continental bank currently funds 17 different development projects in the energy, infrastructure, transport, water and sanitation sectors in the country.
Dr. Adesina assured President Sirleaf that the bank will ensure maximum support to her administration is unhindered.
Speaking earlier, President Sirleaf thanked the AfDB for its continued support towards Liberia’s development aspirations. She said the bank has been a great help to the country since its establishment. “Liberia since the 1960 has been a key beneficiary of the bank’s assistance and we want to laud you for all you have been doing for us,” she said.
The President lauded Dr. Adesina for the remarkable work he did while as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture prior to ascending to the AfBD’s highest office.
She said with what is now going on in the rubber and iron ore sectors, Liberia needs economic diversification that is similar to what Dr Adesina did when he served as the Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria. She said stakeholders in the sector learned a lot from him during the two days.
Liberia has for too long depended on the iron ore and rubber sectors, but President Sirleaf said it is time for diversification of other productive investment potentials. “We are going to put ourselves to work, as we know that primary responsibility rests on us,” President Sirleaf said at a news conference.
Dr. Adesina, a former minister of agriculture and rural development of Nigeria helped to transform Nigeria’s agriculture sector in four years. He was a guest of the Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda (LATA). LATA was established by government to spearhead the economic diversification process with the President as it head.
Dr. Adesina was invited by President Sirleaf to share his experience as an expert in the sector and proffer pieces of advice. He became the 8th president of the AfDB, succeeding Dr. Donald Kaberuka, a Rwandan, who served for two terms.