… AGRF kicks off with launch of Africa Agriculture Status Report
By Jimoh Babatunde
This year’s African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Summit, with the theme: “Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent – Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa.” kicked off today in Kigali, Rwanda with the launch of the 2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR).
Speaking at the opening press conference ahead of the launch of the Status Report held for the first time virtually, in line with COVID-19 containment measures, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA’s President, Dr Agnes Kalibata, said that the summit would provide an opportunity for industry players to outline practicable ways for the agricultural revolution.
Kalibata noted that the 2020 AGRF Summit comes at an unprecedented time when African major cities especially those that mainly rely on imported food face a looming hunger crisis following the implementation of lockdowns in several countries to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“It also comes at a time Africa is faced with several other challenges that include climate change, malnutrition, poverty, the emergence of pests such as desert locusts and fall armyworms and now coronavirus.
“We need food systems that are equitable, sustainable, resilient, and capable of meeting the global challenges of malnutrition, poverty and climate change as well as be responsive to emerging and unforeseen challenges – such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Dr Agnes Kalibata, who is also Special Envoy to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, said: “We must not relent in our effort to transform food systems for the benefit of everyone.”
“As Africa develops and cities grow, radical new thinking is needed on how to feed hundreds of millions sustainably, and drive development. Africa needs systems that meet the health, environmental, social and economic aspirations of people living in rural and urban areas alike. This is realizable in the next decade. Developing urban food markets depends on strengthened rural-urban linkages. Bolstering regional trade in Africa is critical to realizing sustainable and resilient food systems, especially for cities.
The AGRF Summit 2020 will showcase the achievements and ongoing efforts to leverage critical partnerships across rural and urban sectors for shared prosperity.
“The AGRF Summit will inspire and call for the adoption of concrete action and commitments from governments, the private sector, farmers and processors, and other stakeholders in the agriculture and food systems sector.
Kalibata added that “the 2020 AASR focuses on the opportunities inherent in the sector if all stakeholders will come together to define the transformation agenda for the continent.
“This report highlights the opportunity for all agriculture industry stakeholders to bring together viewpoints that define the transformation agenda while outlining the practical next steps to an agricultural revolution,” she said.
“The report began by outlining the opportunities provided by Africa’s urban food markets to the continent’s 60 million farms, indicating that cities shape Africa’s agribusiness environment by affecting patterns of agricultural production and inducing the rapid expansion of food processing and distribution plans.”
Also, Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy, said “This year’s AASR shows that as the centre of gravity in Africa’s agri-food systems shifts increasingly towards urban areas, a cohort of new, non-traditional actors – including city planners, mayors, district councils, trader organizations and public health professionals – are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy.
Subsequent chapters touch on the opportunities in Africa’s growing urban food markets while recognizing that the effective governance of urban food systems requires inclusive models that coordinate and harmonize the actions of the many diverse players now shaping African agri-food systems.
“Traditional markets and small-format shops currently account for 80 – 90% of urban food retailing in African cities. Supermarket shares, though currently small, seem likely to increase in the coming decades. Small farmers reach urban food markets primarily via traditional wholesale markets and the efficient operation of these markets, therefore, becomes key to small farmer access and competitiveness,” reads the report, in part.
While recognizing the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in exacerbating existing economic and social inequalities, the report defines five focus areas in a bid to overcome the problem of urban under-nutrition and accelerate the urgency of urban food system planning. These focus areas are improved urban food system governance; efficient urban wholesale markets; food safety regulation and enforcement; regional free trade and agricultural policy harmonization; and agricultural research focused on high-growth, high-value food commodities.
Domestic food distribution systems, intra-African trade and food safety are the other themes of the report leading to the conclusion that improved urban food system governance and performance can create new opportunities for Africa to transform its agricultural endeavours into thriving businesses.
A professor of International Development at Michigan State University, Steven Haggblade, in his contribution, disclosed that total agriculture export from Africa was about 50 billion dollars and was growing very fast in terms of urbanisation.
He then urged African leaders to focus on the provision of good infrastructure, food safety regulation and enforcement; regional free trade and agricultural policy harmonisation; and agricultural research focused on high-growth, high-value food commodities to address the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic