Africa looks to rework its food systems

Africa will also seek ways to empower youth and women to close the productivity gap

In Summary

•Africa looks to the long term.

•Not just to boost agricultural productivity but also to build resilient food chains.

Africa will also seek ways to empower youth and women to close the productivity gap.
Africa will also seek ways to empower youth and women to close the productivity gap.
Image: BIRD

African countries are rallying behind a common position in a quest for lasting solutions to food insecurity and climate change as they gear up for the upcoming global food summit in New York.

Increasing funding in agricultural research and leveraging on technology tops the African agenda to be tabled during the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) scheduled for September 23, 2021. The African Union’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment (ARDWE), Josefa Sacko, says the summit offers a platform to rework the continent’s food systems.

“This is an opportunity for us to build a food system that provides nutritious food for all, including the vulnerable who are currently forgotten, so that it can sustain millions of actors in the agri-food system along the value chains", she said in a statement asserting Africa’s commitment to influencing the agenda for global food systems transformation.

According to Sacko, Africa’s position should be guided by the vision of "Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

These sentiments were echoed by UN Under-Secretary-General and ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe, who is calling for the development of all-inclusive policies and interventions throughout the food system that would lead to a rise in yields, lower transaction costs for farmers, promote nutritious foods, and reduction in health and environmental costs.

“A common vision, strong political leadership and effective cross-sectoral collaboration, intensively involving the private sector, are essential to identify and implement sustainable solutions to transform food systems for healthy, affordable diets,” said Songwe.

While technology-based disruptions have begun to impact farming and agricultural-based logistics in some parts of Africa, these are limited in scope compared to the demand and require considerable government support to succeed at the scale required to ensure food security. Songwe says the summit will focus the discussions on game-changing solutions to transform food systems across the globe.

“Food systems transformation will help the continent to achieve all the goals of Africa’s Agenda 2063,” said Songwe in a statement.

According to latest Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, "State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021", Africa has recorded among the World’s sharpest increases (5.4 percentage points) in moderate or severe food insecurity from 2019 to 2020, fueled by the COVID-19 that disrupted the continent’s food system.

“It is estimated that around 3 billion people were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2019. Most of these people live in Asia (1.85 billion) and Africa (1.0 billion),” according to the report.

Agriculture and Business Enabling Environment Section (ABEE) Chief, Joan Kagwanja, listed the rise of an African middle class and rapid urbanization as key challenges in the continent’s food system – driving a shift in food demand to accelerate competition over African farmland and climate change.

“African countries need to consider Africa’s peculiarities in designing strategies and plans including recurrent and heightened climate variability, widespread land degradation, natural disasters and conflicts,” said Ms Kagwanja.

In a full in-tray, Africa will also seek ways to empower youth and women to close the productivity gap along the food value chain through innovative approaches that excite their interest in food systems transformation.

The continent will also use the plenary to mobilize and galvanize support for the ‘implementation of the identified priorities within the context of Agenda 2063, CAADP Malabo declaration, the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and other continental frameworks that have the consensus of AU Member States.’