The African Development Bank’s Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) initiative can trigger a fundamental change in Africa’s economic transformation, participants at the first partnership meeting for agro-industrialisation said on Monday.
The gathering brought together representatives from development finance institutions, private developers of Special Economic Zones, and other key global and regional players in Africa’s agri-business sector to share insights on how agro-industrialization can create massive job opportunities, boost agricultural productivity, generate wealth, and improve the quality of life for people across the continent. Participants agreed to work together under a cooperation framework for SAPZ implementation in Africa, under the leadership of the African Development Bank.
“The value of the agribusiness sector is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030…Those of us working in the economic zones sector will work closely with the African Development Bank initiative on this huge opportunity,” said Ahmed Bennis, Secretary-General, Africa Economic Zones Organisation.
Three African Development Bank vice presidents addressed the virtual gathering, detailing the Bank’s strategy for scaling up employment opportunities and income generation through SAPZs.
“The stakes are extremely high: during this week of the UN Food Systems Summit, we stakeholders in Africa’s growth and development need to form a common vision on a road map towards agro-industrialization on the continent,” said Dr Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.
“At the African Development Bank, we believe that turnkey projects, such as Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones, are crucial to development. They bring together the ecosystem in regional value chains and key commodities, bringing together production, post-harvest, logistics, and processing to feed Africa’s growing cities and export to the world in a sustainable, green, and affordable way,” she added.
SAPZs are intended to focus on agro-processing activities in areas with high levels of agricultural potential. They enable farmers, agricultural producers, processors, aggregators, and distributors to work together in one location, lowering transaction costs and sharing business development services to boost productivity and competitiveness.
Bank Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization at the Bank, Solomon Quaynor, said: “If we are going to create jobs, we need to enable the private sector to thrive. Overall, it is about industrializing Africa.”
Dr Kevin Kariuki, the Bank’s Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth, encouraged partners to work together on an implementation model for SAPZs, making a case for renewable energy to ensure optimal benefit.
Closing the session, Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Special Adviser on Industrialization to the African Development Bank President, said that the experiences and commitment shared by participants were valuable ingredients for a cooperation framework that would ensure high-level leadership and inter-agency coordination. The framework would also ensure that each Zone attracts the right investment, is implemented to high standards, and avoids unpredictable risks like political setbacks.
Leading financiers and developers attending the session included: African Export-Import Bank; Industrial Development Corporation; Africa Finance Corporation; Trade and Development Bank; OPEC Fund for International Development; Africa 50;West African Development Bank; Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa; Islamic Development Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development.