President of the African Development Bank Dr Akinwumi Adesina has been named the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate.
He is the fifth African to win the international honours that recognizes individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
Adesina takes home the $250,000 award for his roles over the past two decades with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria.
This was announced on Monday by the president of the World Food Prize, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn at a ceremony held in the United States.
“The selection of President Akinwumi Adesina as the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate reflects both his breakthrough achievements as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria and his critical role in the development of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). It also gives further impetus to his profound vision for enhancing nutrition, uplifting smallholder farmers, and inspiring the next generation of Africans as they confront the challenges of the 21st century,” said Quinn.
He noted his role in the organisation of the 2006 Africa Fertilizer Summit at the Rockefeller Foundation; leading a major expansion of commercial bank lending to farmers as Vice President of AGRA; and, as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, introduced the E-Wallet system, which broke the back of corrupt elements that had controlled the fertilizer distribution system for 40 years.
“His policies expanded Nigeria’s food production by 21 million metric tons, and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments in agriculture – earning him the reputation as the ‘farmer’s Minister’,” he added.
“As someone who grew out of poverty, I know that poverty is not pretty … My life mission is to lift up millions of people out of poverty, especially farmers in rural areas of Africa. We must give hope and turn agriculture into a business all across Africa to create wealth for African economies. The World Food Prize gives me an even greater global platform to make that future happen much faster for Africa,” said Adesina.
The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by 1970 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.
Among the 45 recipients of the World Food Prize are five Africans including: Dr Monty Jones – Sierra Leone (2004), Dr Gebisa Ejeta – Ethiopia (2009), John Agyekum Kufuor – Ghana (2011), Dr Maria Andrade – Cape Verde (2016), Dr Robert Mwanga – Uganda (2016).
Who is Dr Akinwumi Adesina?
Dr Akinwumi Adesina is the 8th President of the African Development Bank and the first Nigerian to serve in that capacity after he was elected on May 28, 2015.
He was born on February 6, 1960 in Ebadam, Nigeria to poor parents. He attended a village school and later applied to the University of Ife in Nigeria where he studied agricultural economics and completed his Bachelor’s of Agriculture degree at the top of his class.
Adesina went on to earn both his Master’s (1985) and Ph.D. (1988) in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA. In 2015, Purdue recognized Adesina with an honorary doctorate.
He accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation in 1988 and started an Africa-based ten-year career within the CGIAR system (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research).
He worked first at ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) in India for several months before being posted to one of the Institute’s facilities in Mali.
From 1990 to 1995, Adesina served as Senior Economist at WARDA (West African Rice Development Association, later known as Africa Rice) in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire—where Dr. Monty Jones (2004 World Food Prize Laureate) was breeding new rice varieties known as NERICA.
In 1998, he was recruited to join the Rockefeller Foundation as Senior Agricultural Scientist in New York, and a year later he was appointed the first Director of the Foundation’s newly opened Southern Africa Regional Office in Harare, Zimbabwe. In 2002, he became Rockefeller’s Associate Director, Food Security.
Adesina served as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015, during which time he implemented bold policy reforms in the fertilizer sector and pursued innovative agricultural investment programs to expand opportunities for the private sector.
He is the recipient of the 2007 YARA Prize, 2010 CAST Communication Award and 2013 Forbes Africa Person of the Year Award among others.
Adesina met his wife Grace in a Christian fellowship group while he was a student at the University of Ife, and they married in 1984. The couple has two children, Rotimi and Segun.