By Hailemariam Dessalegn
Promising progress is being made in Africa’s agricultural transformation. On my recent mission to Malawi, I witnessed the plans to create an Agricultural Transformation Agency in the country, a significant milestone in the journey towards fast-tracking transformation of the continent’s food systems.
This bold move by the government not only signifies commitment to take a holistic approach in dealing with hunger in the country, from the farm to the fork, but the creation of this body to coordinate different agencies’ efforts also sets a good example for the rest of the continent.
With eight years left towards the landmark 2030 when Africa, like the rest of the world, must have achieved the SDGs – notably the eradication of hunger, tackling food security will require global collaboration. It will require coordinated strategies, government commitment and large-scale action in mobilizing resources needed to unlock Africa’s ability to feed itself and the rest of the world.
In just over one month (Sept 5 – 9), leaders from Africa and the world, scientists and farmers will convene in Kigali, Rwanda for the AGRF Summit, which resumes In-person sessions after the last two years of the Covid pandemic, when a hybrid format was adopted.
Under the theme Grow, Nourish, Reward Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems, the summit will explore the action tracks that will accelerate food system transformation, especially after the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, where over 30 African national pathways were charted, but which must now be turned into actionable strategies for the attainment of the Malabo, CAADP and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Currently, about 57.9 per cent of the people in Africa are under-nourished, according to the recently released State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, which also projects that hunger could increase, making Africa the region with the largest number of undernourished people. These statistics cannot be ignored, we need everyone to come to the table and find solutions. We all want better results, we are all interested in feeding our communities and economies that can thrive from agriculture and so we must challenge each other and keep each other accountable if we are to eradicate hunger.
Steps have already been taken by various stakeholders to deliver the innovations required to drive food system transformation, and these must be amplified for quicker impact. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has, for example, trained hundreds of seed scientists, who have released about 700 improved seed varieties for 18 different crops. Many of the commercialized varieties are of indigenous crops, which are already adapted to local conditions and have high nutrient values.
This is in addition to the capacitating of other experts who understand the intricacies of soil nutrition and can provide the best management plans for tremendous crop yields. For meaningful impact, such expertise must be circulated around Africa through partnerships with governments, the private sector and farmers’ organizations.
For agriculture to make sense, it must be viewed not just as a source of sustenance, but as a rewarding business. It is, therefore, important that we capitalize on the food trade opportunities enshrined in the African Continental Food Trade Area (AfCFTA) to create new markets for smallholder farmers, who on many occasions are forced to watch as their produce decays away for lack of local buyers.
Outside the continent, we must continue collaborating with like-minded partners in advancing solutions for global challenges like climate change, which requires diverse technical capacity and financial resources to address.
These are some of the agenda items that will define the conversations in Kigali, where participants will come together to derive actionable strategies for a food system transformation built on ambition, action and partnership. Engagements at the summit will drive towards achieving climate action, promoting of innovation, advancing market development, and deriving the right formulas for nutritious diets.
In addition, there will be numerous investment opportunities presented by both the private sector and governments, including through the Agribusiness Deal Room, which last year alone registered commitments worth $12.5 billion.
I am looking forward to exceptional outcomes from this year’s event, including detailed conversations on Africa’s response to climate change ahead of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), which takes place in Egypt later in the year.
I invite you to reconnect and regroup with us, as we define the practical steps needed to transform and advance Africa’s food systems at the AGRF 2022 Summit
The writer is the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and the current chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the AGRF Partner’s Group.