The AGRF Virtual Summit 2020: A Call to Action to use Africa’s strength – its Agriculture Sector – to build back stronger from COVID-19

September 16, 2020

Four days, 10,400 voices, speaking to the need for inclusive agricultural transformation. Farmers, Presidents, entrepreneurs, and others coming together around belief in Africa, belief in opportunity, belief in agriculture as a driver of sustainable development.

Kigali, Rwanda: September 14, 2020 – This year’s AGRF was held at a critical time when the world is facing economic and health challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The AGRF Partners Group co-hosted the convention together with the Government of Rwanda, under the leadership of H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda. The forum was conducted in a hybrid format, partially online and partially at its appointed venue, the Kigali Convention Center, in Kigali, Rwanda.

The AGRF 2020 mission remained to bring people together to transform agriculture, raise productivity for farmers and increase incomes – for smallholder farmers especially; an agenda that is more relevant at this time of crisis than ever before. The driving force was the realization that Africa can only transform with African solutions, African energies and partnerships across the continent and the world. On this note, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and a member of the AGRF Partners Group, said: “We must not relent in our effort to transform food systems for the benefit of everyone and build stronger, resilient and more sustainable food systems.”

The virtual summit 2020 registered the largest ever attendance in the history of the conference, with over 10,400 delegates and 320 speakers from 113 countries taking part in the four days of the event. In comparison, last year 2,300 participants were in Accra, Ghana for the ninth edition. Among the distinguished delegates at this year’s event were current and former presidents and heads of government, ministers, governors, mayors and leaders of international agencies, including the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU).

This year’s AGRF Summit had the most active social media engagement comprising 450 Million impressions, up 64% on last year. This engagement was driven by the diversity of conversations at the virtual summit, which was held under the theme: Feed the Cities Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa.

In the four days of the event, heads of state, government officials, political leaders, members of the civil society, private sector players, scientists and farmers engaged one another in discussions on how to leverage the growing urban demand to design flourishing agricultural food systems that are resilient and can withstand shocks, such as COVID-19, climate change and locust and pest invasions.


2020 African Agricultural Status Report – AASR

Guiding the discussions was the African Agricultural Status Report (AASR), aptly titled: Feeding Africa’s Cities Opportunities, Challenges, and Policies for Linking African Farmers with Growing Urban Food Markets. The report asserts that Africa’s cities currently provide the largest and most rapidly growing agricultural markets in the continent; markets which yield roughly US$200 to US$250 billion per year in food sales. Over 80 percent of the urban food sales, the AASR says, comes from domestic African suppliers. Launching the AASR, Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Strategy noted, “We must see better urban food system governance, more efficient urban wholesale markets, food safety regulation, harmonization of regional trade and ag policies, and better application of agriculture research around high value and growth food commodities.”

Download AASR 2020 Report

“In the coming decades, demographic projections forecast rates of African urbanization as the highest in the world. Today — and even more so tomorrow — Africa’s rapidly growing cities and food markets offer the largest and fastest growing market opportunity available to the continent’s 60 million farms,” reads the report, in part.


Good Morning AGRF

Each morning, AGRF delegates enjoyed ‘Good Morning AGRF’ led by journalist Ms. Fiona Mbabazi, for highlights of the upcoming day and discussion around the relevant theme. Interviewees included Dr Agnes Kalibata and Clare Akamanzi. The hugely popular Jeff Koinange also led a series of spotlight interviews with guests including Vera Songwe, Lawrence Haddad and Gerda Verburg.

Against this background, the first day of the summit focused on resilience and adaptation covering such topics as resilience through digital platforms, resilience frameworks to increase adaptation and strategies for leveraging market systems to improve resilience.

Among the recurring conclusions was that the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Africa’s food supply chains had increased the urgency to create sustainable local food networks. Dr.Mandefro Nigussie, the HonorableState Minister for Agriculture of Ethiopia, for example, confirmed that milk and vegetables in his country’s capital, Addis Ababa, had led his government to think about ways of increasing the production of the two items within the city.

“COVID-19 worsened the food security situation within the city and that was a turning point. The city has now started thinking about self-sufficiency especially when it comes to the production of dairy products and vegetables,” Dr. Nigussie said.

Rwanda has been better off as it had contingency plans in place, which have shielded its citizens in the capital city, Kigali, from the anguish of broken supply chains.

Kigali Mayor, His Worship Pudence Rubingisa confirmed setting aside 23 percent of the land in the city for agricultural purposes, a resource which has proven useful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want the city to be resilient, and after the pandemic, we now see the importance of a strategic plan in terms of food security,” Hon. Rubingisa said.


Agribusiness Deal Room

It was also on this day that the Agribusiness Deal Room was launched. The Agribusiness Deal Room is a matchmaking platform that gives growing agribusiness ventures the access to finance and partnership opportunities. The Deal Room this year had 3,611 delegates registered, representing 91 countries globally. A total of 208 businesses, 55 financial investors, 20 business development service providers and 54 anchor buyers explored a wide range of investment opportunities, valued at over US$ 4.7 bn, in 1,000 investment and partnership meetings across four days.

On the second day, the delegates explored topics around nutrition and health, touching on the roles of policy, local food systems and gender in the continent’s food security and nutrition plans. AGRF hosted the first ever Farmers Forum with lively discussions around sustainability plans and strategies for overcoming recent challenges and increasing resilience in the business of agriculture. Another session studied methods for connecting smallholder producers in the continent with urban consumers, while a panel investigated how technological and product innovation can be used to improve the nutritional content of foods and increase access to more-nutritious foods among urban populations.


GoGettaz

Meanwhile, the GoGettaz Agripreneur prize finale saw 12 young entrepreneurs compete for the $100,000 prize. The session saw a diversity of pitches made for businesses ranging from predictive technology to value addition.The award was won by Tanzanian Daniella Kwayu of Phema Agri and Rwandese Moses Katala of Magofarm, who each received a $50,000 cash prize to grow their businesses. Phema Agri is a digital agriculture investment platform that provides smallholder farmers with blended finance with an aim to de-risk the value chain, while Magofarm is an insect technology startup that turns food waste into insect protein for animal feed, which they deliver straight to farmers based on an individual needs analysis.

Other winners in the competition were Millicent Agidipo of (Achiever Foods), Elizabeth Gikebe (MhogoFoods), Dysmys Kisilu (Solar Freeze) and Paul Matove of Vertical and Micro-Gardening, who all won GoGettaz Impact Award, which came with a $2500 cash prize. Other winners in the competition were Millicent Agidipo of (Achiever Foods), Elizabeth Gikebe (MhogoFoods), Dysmys Kisilu (Solar Freeze) and Paul Matove of Vertical and Micro-Gardening, who all won GoGettaz Impact Award, which came with a $2500 cash prize.

During the Plenary session, we had the FAO DG deliver keynote remarks on the SOFI report and implications on African Agricultural transformation. An example was the critical role physical infrastructure plays in supporting food security.

Dr. Lawrence Haddad, the Executive Director of GAIN, demonstrated the use of the nutrition dashboard to improve our understanding of how policies and actions shape nutrition outcomes and how it can be used as an invaluable tool for decision makers and advocacy groups.

Day three of the conference covered markets and trade, with different topics addressing the regional food and policy reforms needed to strengthen Africa food markets. A defining session evaluated how countries and Regional Economic Communities (REC) are advancing and implementing their policy and political commitments as well as priorities of the AU’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) goals and targets. The session concluded that stepping up governments’ capacity to attract agro-investments is essential for economic recovery and responsiveness to changing market dynamics, and to accelerate the rate of growth of agriculture and food-systems.

On the same day, a Ministerial Roundtable took stock of where the continent is in regards to policy reforms, partnerships, and financing towards achieving the 2025 Malabo Declaration target of ending hunger in Africa. The session explored the opportunities for investing across agriculture and food systems in the face of COVID-19 as well as the progress made towards the implementation of CAADP. Additionally, the high-level panel analyzed the policy, political and financial commitments for prioritizing the agricultural sector as an economic driver for wealth creation and income generation for smallholder farmers.


Youth Town Hall

Crowning the day was the Youth Town Hall session, which was attended by H.E. President Kagame and leading youth agripreneurs from around the continent. In his speech, the president challenged the youth to take charge of the continent’s agricultural plans and strategies saying that the youth are best-placed to lead the agricultural revolution that will drive Africa to a season of food security and economic rejuvenation.

“The potential for African agriculture is immense, we need investments in value chains… so that agriculture can serve as the basis for agricultural transformation… but I want the young people to ask themselves how they will lead us to be where they want us to be,” he said.

An engaging discussion followed featuring some of Africa’s youth leaders in fields related to agricultural and food value chains, who all agreed that young people have the power to inject new energy into the continent’s agricultural efforts. This was with the knowledge that Africa has the youngest population in the world, with almost 60 percent of the population being under 25 years.


Presidential Summit

On the last day of the AGRF 2020, a presidential summit ‘brought it all home’ – summing up all the resolutions of the AGRF week into one accord. On the panel were current and former presidents and heads of state and government and leaders of international organizations, who all recognized that the time had arrived for all to act on Africa’s potential for self-sufficient food systems.

“We all need to take individual and collective responsibility to do what we need to do. The pathway to delivery is clear,” said H.E. President Kagame.

In this regard, H.E. Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia reminded the delegates of the immense assets that lie within the continent such as sufficient land, which he said can be productively used to increase the continent’s productivity.

Also on the panel was H.E. Amina Mohammed, theDeputy Secretary-General of UN and Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group, who underscored the importance of creating sustainable food systems for the continent.

“Climate change continues, rates of poverty and inequality all continue. But we now need to make an important transition to get results. It is going about transitioning food systems, reducing imports and increasing exports, among other ways of reaching sustainability,” she said.

Additonally, H.E. Moussa Faki the Chairperson of the AU Commission, introduced the Continental Free Trade Area, which he regarded as an opportunity for the continent to take out of the way the barriers that limit the optimization of the African food market.

Honorary speaker, H.E. Benjamin Netanyahu the Prime Minister of Israel, recognized the cooperation between his country and Africa as one that greatly contributes to the agricultural success of the continent.

“Israel is Africa’s partner in modernizing agriculture to achieve sustainable food production and to create a vibrant agriculture sector that can be a catalyst for even stronger economic growth. Over the past five years, I have seen firsthand how collaboration with Israel can make a tangible difference for African farmers, because Israel is a global leader in agrotechnology,” he said.

It was also on this day that the Agribusiness Deal Room was launched. The Agribusiness Deal Room is a matchmaking platform that gives growing agribusiness ventures the access to finance and partnership opportunities. The Deal Room this year had 3,611 delegates registered, representing 91 countries globally. A total of 208 businesses, 55 financial investors, 20 business development service providers and 54 anchor buyers explored a wide range of investment opportunities, valued at over US$ 4.7 bn, in 1,000 investment and partnership meetings across four days.


Africa Food Prize 2020

Dr. Nakalembe, a University of Maryland Assistant Research Professor, was recognized for her capacity developing efforts to strengthen food security in Africa and beyond. Dr Nakalembe leads the Harvest Africa Program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the U.S. Federal Government, where she helps countries build systems to monitor crops based on NASA’s and the European Space Agency’s free satellite data. In this role, she helps farmers to make evidence-based lifesaving decisions related to food security.

“I helped design a program in Uganda called the Disaster Risk Financing Program and my contribution was to develop

a trigger mechanism, which determines when things are bad using remote sensing data,” she said.

“The design of the program is that once the problem is determined, farmers are advised to do other things rather than continue to work in their fields because there wouldn’t be sufficient rainfall to sustain that season,”

Co-award winner Dr. Bationo’s research has contributed immensely to understanding soil fertility issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. He was selected to win the prestigious prize for his efforts in the improvement of micro-dosing fertilizer technology. Dr. Bationo was also cited for scaling up an inventory credit system that allows farmers to store grain and receive credit when prices are low, thus selling their grain when prices are higher. The micro-dosing technology and inventory credit systems are already benefitting millions of farmers in West Africa, having spread from the villages in Niger where Dr. Bationo first implemented these innovations.

“The predominantly sandy soils in West Africa’s Sahel Region are particularly low in phosphorous and nitrogen. The microdose technology is a strategic application of small quantities of fertilizer in the heel of the target crop at planting rather than broadcasting higher quantities all over the field as previously recommended. This technology ensures efficiency in fertilizer use by the plant and reduces losses through leaching and runoff,” Dr. Bationo said.

“The inventory credit system is a social safety net mechanism aimed at tackling the problem of financial liquidity and access to credit by the value chain actors. The system enables producers to access cash loaned against the value of their stored farm products at harvest when the price is relatively low. The system enables farmers to have advance credit, store their grain and sell four to five months later when the prices improve, thus earning better returns on their investments,” he added.

Lauding the two winners, H.E. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria and Chair, Africa Food Prize Committee said: “Their outstanding achievements demonstrate for us, what can be done and what must be done to transform agriculture across our continent. Taking together the experience of these two exceptional Africans, reinforces the message that we often hear but seldom see in practice to change farming from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives. In other words, we need innovative Africans like Catherine to demonstrate the potential of new knowledge and technology with the impactful science that Dr. Bationo has brought.


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