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Africa: Beginning of Positive Transformation

Africa farmland
Irrigation on a young maize crop in South Africa

In Africa’s farmlands, a positive transformation has already begun. To increase the productivity of their fields, diversify their crops, improve their nutrition, and build climate resilience, family farmers are increasingly combining modern ideas and scientific research with traditional wisdom.

Mr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

With the addition of digital technologies, more market connections, and increased efficiency along agri-food chains, this change may go much further, especially if the private sector and government policies support the endeavor.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with a wide range of partners, is striving to develop Africa’s agrifood systems in order to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.

African countries must be in the driver’s seat for this transition to take place.

Representatives from more than 50 African countries will gather in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from April 11 to 14, 2022, for the 32nd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa to set regional objectives for agrifood system reform on the continent.

The meeting takes place at a time when 281 million Africans do not have enough food to eat every day, nearly three-quarters of the African population cannot afford healthy food, and drought in the Horn of Africa threatens lives and livelihoods. Meanwhile, countries are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic consequences.

We, too, must stand tall in the face of Africa’s many simultaneous and overlapping problems, like the tall ceiba tree on Equatorial Guinea’s national flag, which flourishes around the island of Malabo. We’ll convene the four-day high-level gathering in the same location where African Union leaders originally pledged to improve the continent’s agriculture sector in order to eradicate hunger by 2025.

The clock is ticking. It will be difficult to achieve these ambitions and the Sustainable Development Goals without remarkable efforts from every African country (SDGs).

In this exceptional endeavor, digitalization and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have the potential to be game-changers. Digitalization is a key component of rural development, according to the FAO. In seven African countries, our 1000 Digital Villages concept is now being tested. Its goal is to provide digital tools and services to communities in order to accelerate rural development and well-being. FAO has already assisted nations in adopting digital tools to develop electronic land registers and apps for pest and disease control, as well as extension services for last-mile farmers, under this program.

Similarly, the AfCFTA has the potential to alter Africa’s rural economy. With 1.2 billion consumers, this regional single market represents a significant opportunity to improve economic growth, eliminate poverty, and increase economic inclusion. This opportunity will benefit everyone if it is implemented quickly across the country, with a focus on women and youth.

Indeed, African countries already have a set of tools in place to accelerate agri-food system reform and rural development. The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) is one of the most important. It is a continent-wide project led by African countries with the goal of ending hunger and poverty via agricultural development.

I applaud the African countries’ recent reaffirmation of their resolve to speed up CAADP implementation in order to meet the Malabo obligations. As part of the CAADP biennial assessment, the FAO stands ready to support this work, including improving the quality of data used to measure progress.

The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), which provides a common framework for African stakeholders to build integrated infrastructure to boost trade and jobs; the African Union Climate Change Strategy, which aims to achieve the Agenda 2063 Vision by strengthening the continent’s resilience to the negative effects of climate change; and the Science Technology Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) are all examples of existing instruments to accelerate progress.

The FAO Regional Conference for Africa’s 32nd Session will focus on these and other concerns. Ministerial roundtables will cover policy goals such as investing in ecosystem restoration in Africa for agri-food system transformation, boosting trade and investment under the AfCFTA, and ensuring that women, youth, and rural farmers are included in the continent’s agrifood systems.

I invite policymakers, civil society organizations, academic institutions, the corporate sector, donor partners, and all other parties interested in Africa’s agricultural transformation to attend.

The FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and lays out our roadmap for achieving the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all, with no one left behind, will serve as the foundation for the discussions.

FAO’s signature projects, such as the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which identifies gaps in rural transformation and pairs countries with partners to provide practical outcomes, are critical to achieving these goals. It’s backed up by a geospatial data platform that taps into the FAO’s vast database of data on key sectors.

This global endeavor has so far attracted 27 African countries. I encourage other African countries to participate and benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime chance.

In Africa, the FAO has established the One Country One Priority Product project to assist countries in creating sustainable value chains and expanding their market opportunities.

Several African communities are participating in our new Green Cities Initiative, which combines urban forestry and agriculture into municipal planning. As a result, cities will be more sustainable, and healthy food will have shorter pathways to market. All of these projects are country-led and -owned, emphasizing the importance of country-level action.

We can revolutionize Africa’s agriculture to achieve The Africa We Want by working together.