The international community’s adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has positioned the food and agriculture sector as a catalyst for achieving inclusive global growth and eradicating poverty and hunger.
Africa is well placed to attain the universal set of goals. African heads of State and government have courageously agreed to eradicate hunger by 2025. This is a great challenge—as Africa has aimed higher—but also a great opportunity. The next few years will thus be crucial for Africa if we are to go down in history as the Zero Hunger Generation.
Under the theme ‘Transforming African Agri-food systems for inclusive growth and shared prosperity’, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is meeting the continent’s agricultural leaders during its biennial regional conference taking place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from April 4 to 8 2016.
This is a timely event for a number of reasons.
First, it draws on the momentum created by the 2014 Malabo Declaration through which African leaders called for a fundamental shift in the continent’s agricultural and rural development, in line with the aspirations of Africa Union’s Agenda 2063, which emphasises unity, self-reliance, integration and solidarity. Also in 2014, African nations joined other states in adopting the Rome Declaration and its related Framework for Action at the Second International Conference on Nutrition.
Second, FAO’s Regional Conference also comes hard on the heels of the recent COP 21 climate change agreement which presents Africa with numerous opportunities to develop its climate adaptation and mitigation responses.
Africa is already feeling the impacts of climate change, including an increase in the severity and frequency of droughts, floods and other extreme weather events. A clear example of this is the current El Niño with its devastating effects on the livelihoods of farmers and agro-pastoralists in Eastern and Southern Africa. Climate change will also increase the risk of trans-boundary plant and animal pests and diseases, which will need control and adequate responses.
A number of other challenges lie ahead that the continent’s leaders must embrace and turn into opportunities.
It is expected that over half of the projected global population growth between now and 2050 will occur in Africa-adding 1.3 billion people to the continent’s population.
African agriculture markets are projected to surpass $1 trillion over the next 30 years. These demographic and economic trends represent both a huge opportunity and a challenge for African Agriculture and the agri-food system.
By investing in African food systems on the way we produce, collect, store, transport, process, package and distribute foods, we can produce the food Africans eat and create a dynamic sector that generates jobs and livelihoods for our youth. By investing in African institutions to educate people, establish and rigorously apply food standards and to monitor food safety, we can improve our diets and our health and create a more nutritious food system.
African governments will need to re-engage in the systematic implementation of sound rural development policies and programmes that maximise opportunities for young people and farmers to strengthen their capacities and facilitate access to sustainable technologies and productive resources needed to drive broad-based growth in the agricultural sector and rural economy.
Africa currently imports $50 billion in food. Persistent food import dependency remains a serious problem for many African countries, especially as high food import bills take money away from other important development agendas without resolving food insecurity.
Dependence on food imports should not be the rule. Africa has the potential to be not only self-sufficient but also to become a major food exporter to the rest of the world.
Now is the time for African leaders to act together. By doing so, they can ensure that their continent can achieve, in a sustainable and environmentally sound way, a better future for all. n