Opening salutations: Excellencies ….
We have listened to briefs on progress in sustaining the momentum behind CAADP, meeting the Malabo commitments and putting in place a mutual accountability framework and the outcomes from the inaugural Biennial Report. The report however, concludes that commitment #3, “Ending Hunger by 2025” is not on track.
An earlier report, the 2017 FAO report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition highlighted a sharp deterioration in parts of SSA. Notwithstanding, the 2017 AGRA Africa Agriculture Status Report however, sees favourable prospects for African agriculture in the coming decades.
Viewed from another perspective, while agribusiness and farmers with adequate government support could create a trillion-dollar food market, Africa’s import bill for raw and processed foods that can be produced here at home, is projected to rise from $35B to $110B by 2025, creating jobs and putting money in the pockets of foreigners abroad, whereas every year, 50% of our young graduates remain unemployed.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am not here to applaud the contents of a half-full glass or the progress with respect to the commitments to end hunger in Africa by 2025, that is, in seven years time! Let us talk about the glass that is half empty and why now is the time for action.
Ending hunger or achieving Zero Hunger should not be addressed in isolation of our overall national, regional and continental development framework: infrastructure, services, functional institutions, education, agriculture, health and nutrition, and social protection especially for the most vulnerable of our populations – the rural poor are all interconnected.
No nation or region of the world has developed without leveraging the potential of the agriculture sector and without going through an agricultural transformation that generates inclusive social and economic growth – from an agrarian revolution to an industrial revolution; England and Europe in the 17th and 18th Centuries; Japan in the 19th Century; China, Brazil, India etc. in the 20th Century.
The Brazilian model, Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) was an ambitious programme that lifted more than 36 million from extreme poverty in just over a decade.
For Africa, ending hunger calls for a transformation that must begin with the rural sector – because, as shown by FAO, IFAD, AfDB, the World Bank and others, this is the environment, this is the population of farmers, fishers, herders and pastoralists that is hit the hardest with hunger, with poverty, with climate change, and with conflict - ironically, the population and the environment that feeds most of Africa. And they are mostly women.
In my remaining time, let me make a plea and a call to action as we work towards 2025.
Farming, whether of crops, livestock or fisheries, is not just a way of life; it is an economic activity, a money generating business that produces food, feeds people, creates jobs and employment, brings wealth, empowers and transforms people. It is the pathway to sustainable development.
A broad-based and inclusive rural transformation is a pre-requisite to ending hunger or achieving zero hunger because Africa’s poor and hungry live mostly in rural areas, not in bloated urban slums. They are the custodians of our agricultural heritage.
A healthy, competitive, indigenous private sector, particularly, SMEs, is needed in partnership with government and civil society to bring about lasting change. AGRA’s approach in this area is commendable.
And, Africa is not poor. Africa is well endowed: minerals, oil and gas, 200 million hectares of fertile, uncultivated agricultural land, plenty of sunshine, abundant rainfall and waterways, and people, with a predominant vibrant, youthful population
Africa’s development problems will only be solved when we Africans learn how to manage our own resources. No amount of foreign development assistance will solve Africa’s problems
Development is not what people do for others but what they do for themselves. Above all, it takes committed, visionary and selfless leadership at the highest political level and of government for change to happen.
Summits in capitals of Europe, the Americas and Asia and be told about our problems and how to solve them is simply humiliating!
We have talent, qualified and experienced, brilliant, world-class Africans in all professional fields and sectors
And we should also maximise our collaborative partnerships with global and continental organisations and institutions with decades of experience: the FAO, where I serve as its Special Goodwill Ambassador for Zero Hunger, Africa Region; IFAD my last post as President, and our own home-grown institutions, FARA, AGRA where I serve on their Board, and of course, the AfDB and others
Without good governance our efforts at development will always remain crippled. Poor governance results in mediocrity, weak institutions, blatant corruption, inconsistent policies and dysfunctional governments.
Above all, we must capitalise on our demographic dividend, our youth – the lifeblood of a continent with 65% of its population under 35 years. If we do not resolve the increasingly volatile youth unemployment challenges, our rich demographic dividend will in no time become a nightmare – starting with the shameful plight of masses of illegal African immigrants in Europe, the result of the absence of economic opportunities, of frustration and of hopelessness.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, we have the tools, the knowledge; we have people and talent, and we know what to do. The time is now; we should harness our endowments, our resources: our people, the wealth of our land and all that it offers us both above and below for today and for future generations.