Mar 23, 2024 | Featured, News

Rwanda to host Africa food systems summit

The Africa Food Systems (AFS) Forum in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) will host the official launch of the Africa Food Systems Annual Summit 2024, on March 26, at the Kigali International Convention Center (KCC). AFS is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture and food systems, bringing together stakeholders to take practical action and share lessons that will move African food systems forward. The summit will be held from September 2 to 6, 2024, in Kigali.

Africa Food Systems Managing Director, Amath Pathé Sene, mentioned that the summit is timely this year, considering crises like Covid-19, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Israel-Hamas situation, and others impacting the African continent in various ways. “Currently we are still having issues in terms of food security and nutrition, but also jobs for youth and women which governments need to address, feeding your people and creating opportunity. There are challenges and gaps. It is only six years remaining to reach 2030 to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and one year for Malabo Declaration which must be accelerated,” he explained.

Under the Malabo Declaration, governments have to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture. However, Sene said that many countries are still lagging.

Africa Food Systems Managing Director, Amath Pathé Sene during the interview with The New Times. Photo by Emmanuel Dushimimana
Africa Food Systems Managing Director, Amath Pathé Sene during the interview with The New Times. Photo by Emmanuel Dushimimana

“Few of them—less than 10 out of the whole group—have reached that target and more is still needed. Apart from governments’ budget allocation, we still have a lot of gaps in private sector investments. Private sector investment is still very low in many countries. For instance, in Rwanda, agriculture loans are 6 per cent of total loans,” he said.

According to Oxfam International, the majority of African governments (48 out of 54) reportedly spend an average of 3.8 per cent of their budgets on agriculture—some as little as 1 per cent.

The goal of the forum is to scale up the continent’s efforts by drawing closer key stakeholders for a common purpose, to unleash the full potential of Africa’s millions of smallholder farmers and their families who earn their livelihoods from small-scale farms and produce about 80 per cent of the food and agricultural products consumed across the continent.

Only 1.7 per cent of total global climate finance is allocated to smallholder farmers.

“The sector requires innovative finance. For the simple reason, it is a risky sector on the African continent. There is a lot of gender and youth gap. Some of them do not own land or assets as well as technical capacity. The barriers need to be removed to help the system and enable a conducive environment.

“You can produce food but it needs to come to the market from the village to the city. The system needs to be connected. We need green and climate financing because when it is raining, or dry spells, we need to adapt better, we need blended finance, de-risking, public-private partnership,” he said.

Venture capital to support startups and other businesses with the potential for substantial and rapid growth, equity, loans, joint ventures, grants, and philanthropic resources are part of innovative financing to address food insecurity and create jobs for youth and women in agriculture, he said.

Sene said that there are huge opportunities for women and youth in agriculture. This is fundamental given Africa’s rapidly growing population – an estimated 440 million young people will enter the labour market in Africa by 2030 (IFAD 2023) – and the recent job losses caused by the pandemic.

“The sector can help us reverse our import bill which is currently at $60 billion and it will continue to grow if what is needed is not done at the country and continental level. We have to make sure that this sector is also modernised to attract young people and also reduce the burden of the work to women,” he said.

The summit will look at ways of increasing productivity through adequate financing, technical support, and capacity-building for smallholder farmers.

“We are in an era of urgency. The vulnerability of the continent to climate change is huge because we do not have the resources to deal with the shocks when there are droughts, floods, and landslides like last year in Rwanda. We really need to adapt to climate change. Countries have commitments on what to do every year. There are green funds to support countries. But the pledge has not yet been fulfilled,” Sene added.

Some of the expected September summit outcomes, he said, include learning from Africa’s food system, opportunities, collaboration and partnership between countries and continents, private sector players, farmers, new financing models to be shared, business opportunities for SMEs, access to latest technologies to be showcased, research products, deals to be signed, and more.

(article originally published: The New Times)

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