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Africa’s agric stakeholders call for resilient food system, intra-African trade

Agriculture stakeholders in Africa on Tuesday said building a resilient food system, intra-African trade and empowering smallholder farmers would drive an inclusive economic growth.
The stakeholders made the submission at the first virtual summit of the 2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR) organised by the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which kicked-off on Tuesday in Kigali, Rwanda.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that AASR is an annual publication that has been published by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) since 2013.

The annual publication has become a reference point for emerging topics on agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Staple Crops (2013); Climate Change (2014); Youth in Agriculture (2015),; Agricultural Transformation (2016); Smallholder Agriculture (2017): Government Capacity (2018) and The Hidden Middle (2019).

The virtual summit, themed: Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa will hold between Sept. 8 and Sept. 11 .

AGRA’s President, Dr Agnes Kalibata said that the summit would provide opportunity for industry players to outline practicable ways for agricultural revolution.

Kalibata said that Africa was rising very fast, adding t “the 2020 AASR focuses on the opportunities inherent if all stakeholders in the sector 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.”

Prof. Steven Haggblade of International Development, Michigan State University said that total agriculture export from Africa was about 50 billion dollars and was growing very fast in terms of urbanisation.

Haggblade highlighted five bottom lines on what mattered most for policy makers to rural farmers for economic growth as- urban wholesale food market, critical for urban farmers survival.

Others are efficient urban wholesale markets; food safety regulation and enforcement; regional free trade and agricultural policy harmonisation; and agricultural research focused on high-growth, high-value food commodities.

“These five areas are to address the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in exacerbating existing economic and social inequalities,’’ Haggblade said.

Mr Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy said that report showed the tilt of Africa’s food system to urban areas, which had prompted major shift to non-traditional actors in the space.

“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 are emerging.

“Including city planners, mayors, district councils, trader organisations and public health professionals, who are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy,” Cox said.

NAN reports that some chapters of the report touched on the opportunities in Africa’s growing urban food markets, while recognising that the effective governance of urban food systems requires inclusive models that coordinate and harmonise the actions of the many diverse players now shaping African agri-food systems.

The report reads in part: “Traditional markets and small-format shops currently account for 80 to 90 per cent 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”.

Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Ms Gerardine Mukeshimana said that Africa had to build a resilient food system, regional trades and improved transportation.

Mukeshimana said that policy makers should be looking at improving agricultural production, markets, value chain development and international trades.

The report was launched at the 10th edition of the AGRF, an annual gathering with no fewer than 4,000 delegates including heads of state and government, agriculture ministers, members of the civil society, private sector leaders, scientists and farmers to discuss ways of feeding Africa’s increasing urban populations.

The virtual summit was co-hosted by the government of Rwanda and the AGRF Partners’ Group and Ms Anna Richardson from Portland, moderated in line with COVID-19 containment measures.

The summit is also a call to action to rethink Africa’s food systems in the delivery of resilient, better nourished, and more prosperous outcomes for all.

AGRA is a farmer-centred, African-led, partnerships-driven institution that is working to transforming smallholder farmers from a solitary struggle to becoming successful business enterprise.

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