AGRF 2018 – Leaving a vital legacy for African agriculture

AGRF 2020

AGRF 2018 has come to an end, and all the bustle of 2,800 political leaders, financiers, media commentators, policy-makers and, of course, agripreneurs of all types will soon be just a memory for the people of Kigali, Rwanda. But the event has left a vital legacy for African agriculture which, it is to be hoped, will resonate for decades to come.

In particular, four themes ran throughout the conference, collectively addressing the most important issues and serious challenges facing the continent’s farmers and policy-makers now and in the future.

These broad themes focused on making it easier for African farms and agribusinesses to access the investment they desperately need; increasing trade between African nations; leveraging the expertise and energy of new development partners from around the world; and addressing the massive task of how to manage invasive species, most particularly the Fall armyworm.

A series of announcements targeting these aims during AGRF 2018 added immeasurably to the palpable sense of optimism and empowerment shared by many delegates at the end of nearly four days of deal-making and networking.

As H. E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda said in his closing address, “The knowledge, experience and goodwill in evidence at this forum shows that we have everything we need to succeed. It is up to us working together to drive the necessary change in our respective communities and organisations.”

This sentiment was echoed by AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata, “With leadership that is committed to what we want to do in agriculture, there is no way we cannot grow and see our economies grow.”

Highlights of the event included announcements around:

  • a coalition including the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the European Union, the Government of Luxembourg and AGRA that has the potential to consolidate tens of millions of dollars in new investments for commercial agriculture ventures in Africa. According to AGRA’s Board Chair Strive Masiyiwa, starting with the 2016 AGRF in Nairobi, commitments to transforming the future of Africa’s poorest farmers now tops US$60 billion
  • new agriculture partnerships with China, Israel and India, with the aim of helping the continent benefit from some of the world’s most advanced and well-funded researchers and development partners
  • the launch of an aggressive new consortium to defeat the invasion of the Fall armyworm, which is now threatening up to US $6 billion of damage to African maize, sorghum and other critical food crops
  • the potential for reforms—documented at the meeting with the launch of the new African Agricultural Trade Status Monitor—that could collectively triple trade in agriculture commodities between African countries. As H.E. William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya, put it: “Why struggle to access the markets in Europe when we can’t access the market next door? We have made it easier to export to Europe than to export to Ghana or Rwanda.”

The last words belong to Mr Kagame: “The majority of Africans still earn their livelihood directly or indirectly from the land,” he said. “Agriculture therefore deserves the concentrated attention of Africa’s policy-makers, scientists and entrepreneurs.

“Fortunately, we know what works.”