The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has been named Forbes African of the Year for his reforms in the country’s farming sector.
A report by Reuters quoted Forbes Africa’s Editor, Mr. Chris Bishop, as saying, “He is a man on a mission to help Africa feed itself.”
Adesina was chosen ahead of some of Africa’s most prominent businesspeople: Aliko Dangote and Jim Ovia, also from Nigeria; South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe; and Zimbabwe’s Strive Masiyiwa.
The report notes that although the country is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, most Nigerians live in poverty, especially in the rural areas.
Bishop said he hoped the award would “encourage the rest of the continent to grow more of its own food.”
Analysts say Nigeria’s economy has long been dominated by oil, while agriculture has been ignored, even though it supports far more people.
Adesina said he wanted to help the people to become rich through farming. “My goal is to make as many millionaires, maybe even billionaires, from agriculture as possible,” he said, in his acceptance speech.
Aliyu Tanko from the BBC Hausa says Mr. Adesina has introduced more transparency into the supply and distribution of fertiliser, which had previously been marred by massive corruption.
Most Nigerians still live in poverty, especially in the rural areas.
The minister has also urged Nigerians to grow more food crops, especially cassava.
In January, Adesina announced a scheme to hand out 10 million mobile phones to farmers to “drive an agriculture revolution” so that they can find out the latest market information.
The phones are also used to get vouchers for seeds and fertiliser.
However, Reuters says this goal has not yet been achieved, noting that there is no mobile network coverage in many rural areas.
The main opposition party criticised the scheme as a “mischievous vote-catching exercise.”