The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Africa Union Development Agency (AUDA), is spearheading the conversation that will ensure that African countries speak in one voice at the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS).
UNFSS will be convened by the UN Secretary-General on September 23 in New York to expedite achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through game-changing solutions to address food insecurity and build resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks.
Vera Songwe, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ECA Executive Secretary said the Summit will focus the discussions on game-changing solutions to transform food systems across the globe in order to achieve all the 17 SDGs of Agenda 2030.
“In the African context, food systems transformation will help the continent to also achieve all the goals of Africa’s Agenda 2063,” said Songwe.
ECA has worked closely with AUC and AUDA between March and July 2021 to further refine Africa’s common position for the UNFSS and has helped to define the process that has led to the endorsement of Africa’s common position at an extraordinary session of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment.
Africa’s common position builds on the outcomes of the Regional Dialogue on African Food Systems, which was organized by ECA, in close partnership with some of Africa’s major partners and stakeholders in agriculture and food systems. The event, convened within the auspices of the 7th Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development, featured high-level technical and policy sessions and was successful in identifying needs, drivers and game-changers for accelerating African food systems transformation. Feedback and inputs were garnered to revise the background document for the Regional Dialogue.
Africa’s common position was communicated during the pre-summit event that took place on 26-28 July 2021. It is also expected that Africa’s common position will be voiced out during the UNFSS through the voice of the current President of the African Union.
It is expected that the momentum to be created by the UNFSS will result in mobilizing and galvanizing support for the implementation of the identified priorities within the context of Agenda 2063, CAADP Malabo declaration, the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and other continental frameworks that have the consensus of AU Member States.
Within the African context, Ms Songwe said food security in Africa will require essential interventions that include increased investment in research and extension to improve yields, especially of nutritious foods, and to diffuse the adoption of modern technologies, including digitalization and mechanization.
“Policies and interventions throughout the food system will be needed to raise yields, lower transaction costs, promote nutritious foods, and reduce health and environmental costs,” Songwe noted.
“A common vision, strong political leadership and effective cross-sectoral collaboration, intensively involving the private sector, are essential to identify and implement sustainable solutions to transform food systems for healthy, affordable diets.”
Joan Kagwanja, Chief of the Agriculture &, Business Enabling Environment Section (ABEE) says Africans will together seek to address the issues of climate change and food insecurity on the continent at the UNFSS Summit.
She said African farming systems are dominated by small-scale family farms due to low diversification; low access to productivity-enhancing inputs, finance, extension, infrastructure, insecure land tenure significantly hindering investments.
Ms Kagwanja said 75% of African population cannot afford a “healthy” diet, and more than half cannot afford a “nutrient adequate” diet. This is because African food systems cannot produce food at affordable prices, in addition to dominated low purchasing power income.
“The challenges of African food systems include the rise of African middle class, rapid urbanization, which causing shift in food demand; rising competition over African farmland & climate change,” she said.
“Increase in food production does not match population growth as there is a widening gap between production and the attendant consumption.”
She said the private sector, a key player in addressing the challenges of African food systems, had invested $19 million in agricultural technology in Africa (2016-2019), and agri-tech startups grew by 110%.
The ABEE Chief noted that to address the challenges of food insecurity, countries need to turn COVID-19 challenge into an opportunity by shifting from business-as-usual and adopt holistic, multi-sectoral approaches and systems thinking with special focus on building resilience.
“African countries need to consider Africa’s peculiarities in designing strategies and plans including recurrent and heightened climate variability, wide-spread land degradation, natural disasters and conflicts,” said Ms Kagwanja.
Young people, she said, should be supported to engage in innovative approaches that make food systems attractive for youth engagement. Women should be empowered to end the productivity gap along food value chain, including in enhancing land access and tenure.
The UNFSS will be held virtually during the UN General Assembly in New York. The agenda for the Summit include a statement of action from the UN Secretary-General, compendium of the Summit’s two-year preparations, National dialogues, and pathways for food systems to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, Coalitions cutting across the five action tracks and incorporating the four levers of change around key areas, a follow-up and review process supported by the UN and its agencies.
The UNFSS addresses the sustainable development value of voluntary sustainability standards by pooling resources, synchronizing efforts, and assuring policy coherence, coordination, and collaboration among United Nations agencies. (CEA)