Daily Nation (Kenya)
August 3, 2009
Riyadh, Monday – A group of Saudi-based investors, including the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), will launch later this year a seven-year plan worth $1 billion in Africa to reduce dependency on rice imports and supply the Middle East region.
The so-called 7X7 project aims at developing and planting 700,000 hectares of farm land to produce within seven years 7 million tonnes of rice, said Salim Lalani, head of investments at Foras International Investment Company, one of the partners in the project.
“We are looking at three to four countries: Mali, Senegal and may be Sudan and Uganda,” Mr Lalani told Reuters.
Food security has topped the policy agenda in the arid Gulf Arab region following rampant inflation in 2008 that underscored its dependence on imports and forced countries to invest abroad to ensure supplies of staples such as rice and wheat.
The project’s political backers are the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which groups more than 50 countries, and the governments of Mali and Senegal, both of which are OIC members.
“On the financial front, there is the IDB and the Private Sector Islamic Development Corporation,” Foras said in written replies to Reuters’ questions.
Saudi Arabia has urged companies to invest in farm projects abroad. Several Saudi firms have already started investing in agricultural projects from Indonesia to Ethiopia.