Presidents Engage in Discussions on Africa’s Food System Transformation
Five of Africa’s presidents met at the AGRF Summit in Nairobi on Wednesday September 8, 2021 to review strategies for fast-tracking Africa’s food system transformation.
The five were: host Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Dr. Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), and Hage Geingob of Namibia.
Joining them in a panel discussion were Tanzania’s Vice President Dr. Philip Mpango, IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo,Josefa Sacko, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the Africa Union Commission, Salamatu Garba, the Senior Gender Specialist at UNDP-GEF Project, and Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group. The session was moderated by Dr. Vera Songwe, theUnited Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.
Mr Kenyatta described the AGRF Summit as a platform for consolidating Africa’s voice in readiness for the UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) in New York starting September 23. The UN FSS will bring together leaders from around the world to review the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with notable attention on the eradication of hunger and poverty.
“The biggest outcomes that some of us are looking for at the AGRF Summit is that we will work together as Africans and come up with a common position to table UN Food Systems Summit,” Kenyatta said.
In relation, Mr. Mpango, proposed that difficult financing be given prominence among the biggest challenges of Africa’s food systems.
“It is important that we take to New York the issue of agriculture financing especially given the risk of rain-fed agriculture,” he said.
Ms. Sacko, however, lamented that while African governments had enough resources to support an agricultural transformation, many were unwilling to invest in the sector.
“In 2014 heads of state committed to invest 10 percent of their public expenditure in agriculture, but up to now, very few countries are investing in the sector,” she said, noting that Africa’s progress to the SDGs would remain slow unless things changed.
President Kagame reiterated the need for an increase in agriculture spend among his five priorities for food system transformation.
“Africa’s solutions will be pursued in five tracks, i.e. nutrition & school feeding; supporting local markets, supply chains and trade within Africa; increased financing in agriculture to 10 percent of public expenditure; helping smallholder farmers especially women in expanding their social safety nets, and the creation of climate early warning data systems,” he said.
Meanwhile, Houngbo and Garba focused their presentation on the plight of women and girls, both agreeing that this demographic plays a critical role in Africa’s agricultural systems but is often under-rewarded.
Other speakers Adesina, Chakwera, Holsether and Museveni addressed the need for investments in agricultural technologies and finance in increasing agricultural productivity for food security and better household income.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Songwe appealed for rapid control action, noting that failure to tame the disease would be disastrous to Africa’s food systems.
“We cannot have effective food systems if we do not vaccinate and if we don’t get the COVID-19 fight under our belt,” she said.
The Presidential Summit culminated with the official opening of the AGRF, which runs from September 7-10, 2021.