Closing Plenary: Stronger Together
As the sun sets on a hugely successful and incredibly important AGRF 2022, the closing plenary reflected on the week’s events, activities and outcomes – to scrutinise and discuss the lessons learned and the commitments made. The final plenary sought to underline how collaborative partnerships globally and nationally play an important role in reaching the goals of food security and advance the transformation of food systems.
The focus of this year’s summit has been around addressing the challenges facing the continent, from climate change to food security, the need to work collaboratively and recognising that forging the right partnerships will be fundamental to tackling the task at hand. We have reached the halfway point for the Sustainable Development Goals and are entering the final year of the first decade of Agenda 2063. The need for partnerships between countries, between institutions and stakeholder groups will all need to be strengthened to meet the ambitious goals that have been set.
The moderator, Ms. Fiona Mbabazi, opened by setting out the format and introducing Ms. Jennifer Baarn, Managing Director, AGRF for the official welcome, who began by noting that, ‘Everything that is happening is only exposing vulnerabilities that were already there, we need to ensure that in every corner of this continent, the voice of food systems transformation is clear.’ Reflecting on what happens after the summit ends she urged the importance of ‘carrying the baton and ensuring that every event taking place across the world, the voice of the African continent is clear.’
Dr. Ousmane Badiane, Founder and Executive Chairperson, Akademiya 2063 offered some thoughts and framed the conversation by highlighting the progress that has been made in the last twenty years but warned it was stalling, with reduced spending, and the per capita income diminished but he also spoke about opportunity by embracing change and seizing upon the technological innovations that are available.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Claudia Sadoff, Executive Managing Director (EMD), CGIAR began by remarking on what a fantastic opportunity it had been to reconnect with one another. Praising the ‘collegiality and sense of cautious optimism.’ Going on to iterate the need for practical action and investment in research to avoid further backslides, ‘we simply cannot succeed in taking technologies to scale unless we’re working in concert with Africa’s technical and research systems.’
The need for forging partnerships has been a leitmotif throughout the conference and today looked to underscore its importance. The discussion that followed, Reinforcing Global Cooperation for Food Systems emphasised the benefits and necessity for regional and national partnering.
Mr. Jorge Werthein, Senior Adviser to the Director General, IICA noted the common issues that they face in Central America and how advantageous it could be to cooperate and exchange ideas and information across the regions.
Mr. Yerlan Alimzhanuly Baidaulet, Director General, Islamic Organization for Food
Security expressed the need for continued communication, ‘out of Covid we’ve found the facility to communicate with one another which has been extremely important given the logistical issues faced by working across nations. Partnerships in action: create the partnerships, do the action. The problem with big conferences is we talk, we have to act immediately not just talk.’
H.E. Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, Founder and CEO, Food Systems for the Future opined that to ensure that agriculture is the driving force for economic growth, ‘we can’t achieve the goals if we can’t attract the capital and learn how to create a narrative that is appealing to private investment, by focusing not on the risk but upselling the advantages.’
Ms. Diane Karusisi, CEO, Bank of Kigali appealed for renewed urgency to work with all the stakeholders to ensure there was food on the table and be resilient to shock.
After the discussion Ms. Jennifer Baarn underlined the takeaways of the event, saying, ‘The AGRF 2022 marks a turning point for Africa’s agricultural and food systems – we call upon governments, private sector and farmer organizations to turn promises into action. And let that action be accompanied by investments.’ She then handed over to Mr. Adam Gerstenmier, Executive Director, Food Action Alliance who praised how the continent has mobilized itself to make it a central part of the conversation on the global stage, remarking, ‘Africa was a leader at the UN food summit and is now showing the same leadership in implementation.’ He concluded on a similarly upbeat note, ‘in terms of climate change, Africa is at a crossroads, but there is an unprecedented opportunity for transformation.’
There followed remarks from Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, AGRA and Host of the AGRF Secretariat who stated the intention to rebrand the AGRF from being a Green Revolution to being a Food Systems Transformation to great applause.
The closing remarks went to H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, Chair, AGRF Partners Group and Former Prime Minister, Ethiopia who declared that the progress and commitments that had been made this week were but one part of the puzzle, ‘We need our leaders to act decisively and swiftly to implement the ambitions and practical actions that have been outlined in the AGRF 2022 summit.’