By Clifford Akumu

African governments, the private sector, communities, and individuals need to act urgently to transform the continent’s food systems, a new report has shown.

The new study,2022 Africa Agriculture Status Report(AASR23) titled “Empowering Africa’s Food Systems”, underscores the need to address the challenges affecting African food systems considering the imminent threat posed by climate change, and rapid population growth.

The path to transforming Africa’s food systems, the report says, is marred by challenges that demand innovative solutions and immediate attention.

The report stressed the urgent need for innovative financing to power the continent’s sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food systems.

“This report strives to show that Innovative Finance is not just a buzzword – it is an essential tool for Africa’s journey towards sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food systems. As the continent faces the dual challenges of rapid population growth and climate change, finding new financing mechanisms will be paramount in shaping a prosperous and food-secure future for all its citizens,” said Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) President, Dr. Agnes Kalibata during the launch of the report at the ongoing Africa Food Systems Forum Summit 2023 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The repercussions of inaction, the report further notes, are not just confined to hunger and malnutrition but extend to economic, social, and environmental domains, with the potential to undermine the progress made over the years.

About 650 million Africans—50 percent of the continent’s population—lack economic or physical access to sufficient food.

However, out of the 50 indicators outlined in the Food Systems Countdown Initiative (FSCI) framework, sub-Saharan African countries are performing worse than the global average in a total of 32 indicators, mostly related to diets, nutrition, and health.

On the other hand, sub-Saharan African countries are performing better than the global average in the remaining 18 indicators, including those on food systems’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and biosphere integrity. The above is accentuated by the fact that up to 650 million Africans—half of the continent’s population—lack economic or physical access to sufficient food to meet their minimum needs every day (BCG, 2021).

While African governments are committed to tripling intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services by 2025 as part of the 2014 Malabo Declaration, the aspiration is far-fetched as this kind of trade continues to dwindle from its peak in 2013 to less than 15 percent in 2022. However, if fully implemented, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could raise household income by nine percent by 2035 while lifting 50 million people out of extreme poverty. Africa could see Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) increase by between 111  and 159 percent under the AfCFTA.

The report offers a deep dive into the underlying challenges that have historically held back the potential of the continent’s vast natural resources. Overall, despite progress in food production, processing, and distribution, significant challenges and failures persist, leading to an alarmingly poor state of food and nutrition security across the continent.

The report unveils a multifaceted web of challenges that stretch from production to consumption. While daunting, the report provides a clear call for a concerted response to these challenges from governments, the private sector, communities, and individuals alike.

“The findings in this year’s AASR are not just a reflection of the current challenges but also a roadmap for future actions, guiding the continent towards food systems where every African will have access to sustainable, healthy diets,” said Dr. John M. Ulimwengu, the report’s author.

The Africa Agriculture Status Report is an annual publication that is published by AGRA and has become an important reference point and handbook for Africa’s leaders in their plans to transform the continent’s agricultural prospects for emerging topics in Sub-Saharan Africa.