Aug 22, 2022 | Blog

With eight years left to 2030, bold actions are required for Africa to feed herself

Promising progress is being made in Africa’s agricultural transformation. On my recent mission to Malawi, I witnessed the plans to create an Agricultural Transformation Agency in the country, a significant milestone in the journey towards fast-tracking transformation of the continent’s food systems.

This bold move by the government not only signifies commitment to take a holistic approach in dealing with hunger in the country, from the farm to the fork, but the creation of this body to coordinate different agencies’ efforts also sets a good example for the rest of the continent.

With eight years left towards the landmark 2030 when Africa, like the rest of the world, must have achieved the SDGs – notably the eradication of hunger, tackling food security will require global collaboration. It will require coordinated strategies, government commitment and large-scale action in mobilizing resources needed to unlock Africa’s ability to feed itself and the rest of the world.

In just over one month (Sept 5 – 9), leaders from Africa and the world, scientists and farmers will convene in Kigali, Rwanda for the AGRF Summit, which resumes In-person sessions after the last two years of the Covid pandemic, when a hybrid format was adopted.

Under the theme Grow, Nourish, Reward – Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems, the summit will explore the action tracks that will accelerate food system transformation, especially after the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, where over 30 African national pathways were charted, but which must now be turned into actionable strategies for the attainment of the Malabo, CAADP and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Currently, about 57.9 per cent of the people in Africa are under-nourished, according to the recently released State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, which also projects that hunger could increase, making Africa the region with the largest number of undernourished people. These statistics cannot be ignored, we need everyone to come to the table and find solutions. We all want better results, we are all interested in feeding our communities and economies that can thrive from agriculture and so we must challenge each other and keep each other accountable if we are to eradicate hunger.

Steps have already been taken by various stakeholders to deliver the innovations required to drive food system transformation, and these must be amplified for quicker impact. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has, for example, trained hundreds of seed scientists, who have released about 700 improved seed varieties for 18 different crops. Many of the commercialized varieties are of indigenous crops, which are already adapted to local conditions and have high nutrient values. 

This is in addition to the capacitating of other experts who understand the intricacies of soil nutrition and can provide the best management plans for tremendous crop yields. For meaningful impact, such expertise must be circulated around Africa through partnerships with governments, the private sector and farmers’ organizations.  

For agriculture to make sense, it must be viewed not just as a source of sustenance, but as a rewarding business. It is, therefore, important that we capitalize on the food trade opportunities enshrined in the African Continental Food Trade Area (AfCFTA) to create new markets for smallholder farmers, who on many occasions are forced to watch as their produce decays away for lack of local buyers.

Outside the continent, we must continue collaborating with like-minded partners in advancing solutions for global challenges like climate change, which requires diverse technical capacity and financial resources to address. 

These are some of the agenda items that will define the conversations in Kigali, where participants will come together to derive actionable strategies for a food system transformation built on ambition, action and partnership. Engagements at the summit will drive towards achieving climate action, promoting of innovation, advancing market development, and deriving the right formulas for nutritious diets.

In addition, there will be numerous investment opportunities presented by both the private sector and governments, including through the Agribusiness Deal Room, which last year alone registered commitments worth $12.5 billion. 

I am looking forward to exceptional outcomes from this year’s event, including detailed conversations on Africa’s response to climate change ahead of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), which takes place in Egypt later in the year.

I invite you to reconnect and regroup with us, as we define the practical steps needed to transform and advance Africa’s food systems at the AGRF 2022 Summit


The writer is the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and the current chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)  and the AGRF Partner’s Group.

Sep 7, 2021 | Blog

Achieving Equitable & Inclusive Livelihoods

The Poverty, inequality, and power imbalances at household, community, national and global levels are a major constraint to the attainment of sustainable food systems. More than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty. Many people living on less than $1.90 a day live in sub-Saharan Africa and the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty. The world is clearly off track, when it comes to the 2030 targets of eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere.

This is the discussion brief that kicked off the equitable and inclusive livelihoods plenary session moderated by Ms. Nozipho Tshabalala CEO, The Conversation Strategist. Nozipho who passed the mantle to Prof. Hamadi Boga-Principal Secretary, State Department for Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, Kenya. Professor Hamadi profiled key milestones alongside the challenges in policy made in agriculture in Kenya by stating, ”Kenyan policies in agriculture recognize that we have smallholder farmers who are still very poor, women are equally not adequately involved however noting this we ensure that we do not exclude anyone in dialogue and policy regulation.”

The fireside chat included contributions from Ms. Michelle Nunn Chairperson, UNFSS Action Track 4, Advance Equitable Livelihoods, & President and CEO, CARE USA contribute. She cited that she doesn’t think that we are on the right trajectory to achieving the SDGs, adding, “we need political will and investment of resources that are not currently available in society.”

“We are supporting all efforts to food systems transformation and in Africa for example, we are deeply committed to consumers. Producers however have a heavy task in transforming agriculture and it takes heavy investments even in the wealthiest parts of the world,” said Mark Schneider, CEO, Nestlé. This was in response to what roles the private sector plays in achieving equitable and inclusive livelihoods.

Dr. Susan Chomba Director, Vital Landscapes, World Resources Institute (WRI) Africa also contributed by listing the key levers of change. “I will state four levers of change starting with Innovation, with a focus on improving smallholder farmer production, the second lever is Human Rights, are people accessing food in a way that respects Human Rights?”  She went on to state that the third lever is on finance which needs to be nature positive and accessible to women. To finalize she stated the fourth lever was gender equality and women empowerment, calling on the fact that we cannot leave women behind.

Next was a panel discussion that invited key panellists from the private and development sector to discuss further. Mr. Vimal Shah- Co-Founder and Chairman of Bidco Africa representing the private sector indicated, “Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement is an opportunity to tap into if well implemented in the continent.”

Prof. Kevin Urama, African Development Institute, African Development Bank Group added that there are very deliberate efforts in various programs within Africa Development Bank that puts women and Youth at the core of agriculture. This primarily encompasses providing financing and for the youth incubation for innovative ideas to boost creativity and interest in agriculture.

“Countries should find ways to incentivize SMEs in agriculture, while partnering with smallholder farmers and also being sensitive to cultural practices,” said Ms. Blayne Tesfaye, Co-founder and CEO TruLuv.

On came the last plenary session where Mr. Stephen Jackson, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya brought in passionate and insightful sentiments from Kenya. “Kenya is a beautiful paradox, it is a success story in agriculture despite having loads of drought/flood-affected areas. We have best practice of putting together private-public sector partnerships which have put actionable legislations and I am very optimistic,” he said.

To finalize with a punch, Prof. Sheryl Hendriks, Professor and Head of Department, University of Pretoria stated, “the era of cheap food is way gone.”