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Africa should increase agriculture production and productivity to meet the growing demand for food as a result of increasing population, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya has observed.

Speaking during the African Agricultural Transformation Conference in Dakar, Senegal held under the auspices of Feeding Africa, Ngwenya said the demand for food and the import bill is expected to keep on rising with population growth.

“The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s projections for 2013 show that world population growth will reach 10 billion by 2050, a 70% increase from 1995. Developing countries will account for most of this growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is growing most rapidly at 108% with a projection of 2 billion people by 2050,” he said.

He added that Africa still faces a number of challenges to reduce poverty and achieve food and nutrition security in the wake of an ever increasing population.

COMESA was chosen as one of the co-conveners of the parallel session on regional and international trade. The Secretary General presented a paper that guided the discussion on the regional and international trade work stream.

He observed that the increasing youth population and youth unemployment in Africa further compound the challenge as it is a threat to stability and sustainable economic growth.

“Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is becoming more youthful, with youth as a proportion of the total population projected at over 75% by 2015, due to high fertility rate. Considering that youth unemployment is estimated at 20%, it is expected that this increase will not decline in the next 20 years,” he said.

However, Mr Ngwenya said with the adoption of CAADP, opportunities exist for African states to increase investment in agriculture.

He said that in the COMESA region, 15 out of 19 Member States have fully committed to the CAADP agenda with the signing of compacts while some are implementing their National Agriculture Investments Plans (NAIPs).

Speaking at the same occasion, African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President Akinwumi Adesina disclosed that the bank will work with partners to leverage US $3 billion financing targeted at women farmers, agribusinesses and other women owned enterprises.

Adesina further added that concrete action plans were in place to scale up skills enhancement for youth in agriculture through the establishment of an African youth in agriculture financing facility to support young commercial farmers and youths in agriculture.

He was speaking at the closing ceremony of the Dakar Conference on African Agricultural Transformation on 23 October 2015.