A New Agenda for Africa

Robson Mutandi, Country Director and Representative to Ethiopia represented IFAD at the IFPRI launch of the third series of its Global Food Policy Report on 4th April 2014. The report provides insight into the major developments in food policy during 2013.

Shengen Fan, The Director General for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), opened the meeting, providing an overview of how food Security and nutrition have featured prominently within the Global agenda last year. Notably, governments and development partners have finally recognized under-nutrition as a key issue to be tackled. Amongst various efforts, the G8 launched the new alliance for food security and nutrition, and the Scaling up Nutrition program was launched by forty five countries in collaboration with the United Nations. The Millennium Development goals have been broadened to incorporate climate change, urbanization, conflict and sustainable consumption and production patterns into the development framework.

 The Director General stressed that action should be taken to prevent the future escalation of food prices by addressing factors that drove the crisis which include; weather shocks, volatile markets and animal related diseases.  Despite the stabilization of global food prices - as basic staple foods such as maize, rice and wheat have exhibited minimal volatility - the international community must not remain complacent.  ‘It is possible that Hunger and under-nutrition can be eliminated sustainably by 2025 however, governments and donors must devote sufficient resources, take policy action and invest in linking agriculture and nutrition to achieve this end,’ he said. Launching the report in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was significant as the government has successfully pursued policies and wisely invested in agriculture, with the support of development partner to build food security in the country.

Panelist representing the UN Economic Commission for Africa, African Union and ILRI engaged in an intensive discussion on what has featured in consultations to define the development agenda for Africa. African Member states made a commitment to the African Agricultural Development Partnership CAADP, ten years ago, aiming to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture, agreeing to invest a minimum of 10% of their budget into the sector and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6%. Despite these developments, agriculture continues to face significant challenges in spite of home-grown policies to advance predominantly rain-fed smallholder agriculture. In this light, African Union Member states would like to identify drivers for success and lessons learned from countries such as China, India, Brazil and Thailand that have successfully eliminated Hunger.

Boaz Keizire, the AU technical advisor for CAADP highlighted that research on Africa’s agricultural growth trends demonstrates that countries with state driven policies that focused on building infrastructure and enhancing small holders’ access to markets have been remarkably successful. Adama Coulibaly, the Chief of Food Security at the UN Economic Commission for Africa noted that the next agenda for Africa is bound to be different, as exciting socioeconomic transformations are taking place within the continent - the seven fastest growing economies are from the continent. Such positive developments have repositioned Africa as a key player on the World stage, and leaders are seeking ‘new ways to lead to the top of the mountain’ and achieve sustainable development he stated.

Ongoing discussions at the African Union show that African countries are keen to develop their agricultural value chains, to engage in the global agricultural market. However, there are risks - of becoming more vulnerable to volatile global food prices and negatively impacting the livelihoods of small holder farmers if developed supply chains do not meet global demands. Finally Continental discussions have focused on the potential benefit of foreign direct investments in agriculture. However, Governments would like to explore policies and mechanism that can be developed to ensure that it does negatively impact food self-sufficiency.

Robson Mutandi took the opportunity to hold a side-meeting with the Director General of IFPRI and discuss the forthcoming ‘IFPRI 2020 Conference’ to be held in Addis Ababa from 15th -17th May 2014. This side-meeting also briefly covered other areas of possible cooperation at country level between IFAD and IFPRI. The President of IFAD, Kanayo Nwanze, will attend the IFPRI 2020 conference and will make a keynote presentation. IFAD has worked towards reducing the rural poor's vulnerability to climatic shocks by assisting them to diversify livelihoods, improve agricultural techniques and technologies and to strengthen community-based natural resource management preparing them for risks and to cope with disasters.

Download the report.