African countries commit to accelerate actions towards food security
Largest ever Regional Conference for Africa closes with united call for raised ambitions
28 October 2020, Rome/Harare – Ministers at the largest ever FAO Regional Conference for Africa have committed to ‘raise ambitions & accelerate actions’ towards achieving food security, at the close of the three day event.
Around 900 delegates including 95 ministers & other government officials from 48 countries have met in the context of rising food insecurity & malnutrition exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic & multiple overlapping crisis – climate change, transboundary pests & diseases, conflict & economic downturns.
In the Ministerial Declaration approved today, delegates committed to accelerate the transformation of African agriculture & agri-food systems, including through innovation & introducing digital technologies in the agriculture sector.
They also supported making further contributions to the African Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), describing it as an instrument “to show that Africa is capable of taking charge & leading priority programmes”.
The Ministers also called on FAO to continue to ensure “greater flexibility & efficiency in the use of the Organization’s limited existing financial & human resources” to support Members, & to provide further leadership in inter-agency collaboration on the transformation towards sustainable agri-food systems.
They further supported FAOs work with multi-stakeholder & multi-sectoral platforms to strengthen dialogue, investments & innovation for sustainable agri-food systems, particularly in the lead up to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.
A success we can all be proud of
“This first virtual session of the Regional Conference for Africa was a success we can all be proud of,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his closing remarks, describing the large attendance as “historic”.
“I have listened intently to the views & priorities raised during this Conference & have taken note of your recommendations in how FAO can serve you better. The inputs from the region are vital in shaping FAO’s strategic outlook & actions,” he said.
Innovation & digital technologies for food security
Many of the Conference sessions focused on how innovation & digital technology can radically drive progress towards food security in Africa.
“The very modality of this virtual meeting is a reminder that we are in a new era where modern technology can transform our lives,” Director-General QU said. “It can bring us closer together even though we’re further apart physically. It can open access to new markets & facilitate easier trade, it can provide vital information for a farmer right into his or her hand, & it can help end hunger & improve lives in ways the world is only beginning to discover,” he said.
Hand-in-hand for Africa’s future
A prominent example of applying innovative approaches & modern technologies, which was highlighted at the Conference, is FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative. The initiative is being implemented in 11 African countries so far: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda & Zimbabwe, with numerous countries expressing interest to adhere as well.
The initiative deploys sophisticated tools, including advanced geospatial modelling & analytics such as the Geospatial Platform & the Data Lab for Statistical Innovation. These provide high-quality, accessible, timely & reliable data assisting countries’ informed, strategic decision-making & evidence-based policies.
Earlier in the day, the Director-General told participants in a session on the Committee on World Food Security that the CFS is “a unique platform” that can more closely align with regions to work together to eradicate hunger.
He also launched a joint publication with the African Union on gender & agrifood systems, stating that gender equality & women’s empowerment need to be at the centre of building back better, stronger, more resilient, sustainable agri-food systems.
At the close of the Conference, the Director-General & delegates praised the Government of Zimbabwe for hosting the virtual event. The Director-General in particular thanked the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, & the Minister for Lands, Agriculture, Water & Rural Resettlement Anxious Jongwe Masuka who chaired the Regional Conference.