By Mary Hearty

With youths making up more than half of Africa’s population, their engagement in agriculture remains crucial in unlocking Africa’s food potential.

“We must then equip our youth with the necessary tools, skills, knowledge for agricultural production including digital innovations, access to capital and business skills as this will help shape an African vision on food systems transformation, steering the continent towards zero hunger,” said Ann Nyaga, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) of Ministry of Agriculture during the hybrid launch of the Alliance for Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The continent must therefore feed itself, and this requires building food systems that deliver sufficient and nutritious food systems that are sustainable and create prosperity for Africa.”

Additionally, she emphasized on the need for including women, harnessing technology and financial accessibility as they are equally critical in unlocking food systems.

Nyaga also acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic remains persistent, and therefore there is need for transformation of food systems. More over, prior to the pandemic, Kenya had already established an agenda for its food systems and the pandemic has just awakened the realities to this, she noted.

“Kenya is determined to transform food systems through the Kenya vision 2030; the Big Four Agenda which places food and nutrition security for all Kenyans as a national priority; and the agricultural sector transformation and growth strategy which places our commitment to increasing output and productivity, boosting incomes from agribusiness and ensuring household food resilient and security,” Nyaga stated.

Also, the CAS highlighted the critical pathways to recovery of food systems transformation for Africa to feed herself sustainably, “we must enhance inter- and intra-regional trade by embracing the Africa Free Trade Agreement through lowering trade barriers, harmonizing regional policies and ensuring regulatory environment friendly.”

Hailemariam Dessalgn, Former Ethiopia Prime Minister and Board Chair of AGRF pointed out that African food systems are not working for its entire people and are widely considered broken despite significant economic growth in Africa.

According to the former Ethiopia Prime Minister, more than 20% of Africans still face severe food insecurity and about 50% of Africans live in moderate food insecurity and occasionally go hungry.

“This is in the context where we are producing more food than ever but we are losing as much as 30% to 40% of food in sub-Saharan Africa that is never consumed,” Dessalgn noted.

He acknowledged that COVID-19 has made it even more urgent to prioritize increasing agricultural transformation and drive efforts to promote food and nutrition security, resilience and sustainable food systems across the continent.

“2021 will be a crucial year for the continent as we all look to build back better and stronger, ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit,” he said.

Therefore, Dessalgn affimed that there is need for collaboration to transform the African food systems with only four years left to achieve the vision and goal laid out in the AU-Malaba Declaration and the nine years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We must drive the intentional agenda with more partners. We need to widen our connections and deepen our interactions through a multi-stakeholder dialogue process to shift our perspectives for new solutions,” he noted.

The AGRF 2021 is scheduled for September 6th to 10th 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. The summit will bring together a diverse range of speakers to showcase their commitment towards addressing food systems across the continent.

The summit will include high level plenary sessions, farmers’ forums which are the basics of agricultural transformation, and youth town hall that will elevate the discussion on harnessing the power of young people in Africa to transform food system as they account for 70% of the population in the continent.