The Government of Korea and the African Development Bank Group are intent on strengthening their partnership to support African countries in achieving food security in five years and boost the continent’s capability to produce its own vaccines and other pharmaceutical products.
Speaking on Monday during a meeting with Korea’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Hwang-keun Chung in the capital Seoul, African Development Bank Group President Dr Akinwumi Adesina said there was every reason to believe that Africa would rapidly achieve food sufficiency, and certainly within five years.
The African Development Bank, together with AfricaRice research centre, recently launched the US$650 million Regional West Africa Rice Development (REWARD) programme in 16 West African countries. Under the programme, a million farmers will be involved in cultivating up to 750,000 hectares of land to produce 53 million metric tons of rice in five years.
Minister Chung said Korea, through its K-Ricebelt initiative(link is external), was working with eight African countries to produce 10,000 metric tons of rice—enough to feed 30 million people. “The country plans to invest up to US$100 million into the project by 2027,” he said.
Adesina said the two initiatives, the African Development Bank’s REWARD and Korea’s K-Ricebelt, should work together across the entire continent and make Africa self-sufficient in rice production in five years.
“We have the technologies, the seed companies, input supply systems that use digital technology for distribution and we also have financing at scale. Let us merge the two initiatives to work under the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) platform,” the African Development Bank chief said. TAAT was launched in 2018 as part of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy to harness proven technologies and raise agricultural productivity across Africa.
Adesina said that while increasing productivity to reduce reliance on food imports, it was important to ensure the quality of locally produced rice must meet that of imports.
He said: “We must also bridge the competitiveness gap by investing in rice processing infrastructure, ensuring zones of production are close to milling plants to reduce transportation cost that end up inflating the price of such commodities.”
Minister Chung indicated that there were plans to invite more African countries to participate in the K-Ricebelt initiative and invest in supporting infrastructure.
“We want to increase participating countries. We will build a seed complex with irrigation facilities and agricultural machinery,” Chung said. He added: “Korea has highly advanced milling technology and can explore how to deploy it across in Africa.”
Chung said Korea “will review how to work together with the African Development Bank on these initiatives.”
Earlier, the African Development Bank president met with Minister for Health and Welfare Kyoo Hong Cho. They discussed Africa’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its capability to manufacture vaccines and other pharmaceutical products.
Adesina said Africa had learned a vital lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic. “The continent was caught unprepared,” he said, adding: “It could not readily manufacture its own sanitisers and protective equipment. We cannot continue to outsource the health of Africans to the benevolence of others.”
The Bank president asked Korea to support the Africa Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation, which it had initiated. He explained that it was established in 2022 to act as a transparent intermediate, advancing and brokering the interests of the African pharmaceutical sector with global and other Southern pharmaceutical companies to share intellectual-property-protected technologies, know-how and patented processes.
Minister Cho said he was impressed by the Bank’s effort to strengthen local capability production of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals.
Cho said: “Africa has its own particular climate, environment and circumstances. It is important to manufacture within Africa pharmaceuticals that meet the continent’s needs. There is scope for cooperation between Africa and Korea.”
Adesina said the African Development Bank was in the process of launching a fellowship programme that would send Africa’s pharmaceutical scientists for attachments to medical science centres in advanced countries.
Minister Cho said Africa’s scientists would benefit from training offered by Korea following its designation last May by the World Health Organisation as the global training hub in biomanufacturing.
Adesina and his host also explored how some African countries could learn from Korea’s national health insurance scheme.
The minister said that in Korea, “all Koreans are covered by the programme and all hospitals in the country are obliged to join the system. They pay according to income or assets.”
While in Seoul, the Bank chief also met with the National Assembly’s Forum for Africa Co-Chair Lee Myung-su and President of the Korea-Africa Foundation Lyeo Woon-ki.
Korea joined the African Development Bank in 1982. It will host the 2024 Korea Africa Summit to establish mutual, beneficial, and sustainable, long-term cooperative relations with Africa.
Adesina is leading the Bank’s delegation to this week’s 7th Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC) Ministerial Conference(link is external) in the country’s cultural and second-largest city of Busan.
The conference is bringing together African finance ministers, heads of pan-African institutions, private sector leaders, host government officials and local investors to explore practical ways of supporting Africa achieve food security and universal access to electricity.