[Column] Yaya Deome: What Africa should expect from the Dakar Food Summit
The Summit on the theme "Feeding Africa: food sovereignty and resilience", held in Dakar, Senegal, from January 25th to 27th, 2023, aimed to bring together diverse stakeholders, for instance, scientists, governmental and non-governmental institutions, private sectors, and multilateral organisations, to address the growing problem of food security in Africa. According to the AfDB report 2023, a third of the world's hungry people—249 million—live in Africa, with 828 million hungry people overall.
Therefore, sustainable Development Goals on ending hunger (SDG 2) must be accomplished in Africa to succeed. According to the UN, Africa must be the main focus, where "the number of undernourished is growing faster than the world's population or anywhere else in the world."
The President of Senegal hosted the Summit, and also the Chairperson of the African Union had ambitions with a focus on action that brings together African Heads of State and Government to mobilise funding from governments, technical and financial partners, the private sector, and local authorities to unlock Africa's potential for food and agriculture. The Summit will feature top experts in several disciplines, including agriculture, livestock, fisheries, cooperation, and finance.
To fully realise Africa's potential for food production, the world's food systems must be changed and transformed to curb food insecurity. The United Nations and the African Union have issued the same rallying cry: "A profound change in the food and agricultural system is required if we are to feed the additional 2 billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050 in addition to the 828 million people who currently go hungry. To reduce the dangers of hunger, thus, agricultural productivity must be increased, and sustainable food production must be implemented.
For this target to be possible, a considerable investment of billions of dollars is needed for the 2024–2029 strategic plan. In order to eventually decrease over-reliance or food imports and primarily focuses on expanding cultivated areas, diversifying agricultural production, or, better still, transforming our food system to a more sustainable one. Thus, as highlighted by s, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, it is high time for Governments to invest in agricultural production to protect smallholder food producers from food shortages.
As a way forward to boost Africa's food systems transformation
The first step in transforming the food system in the continent of Africa must be to acknowledge and emphasise how urgent it is to make significant changes at the national and international levels. Public campaigns, press, and public debates are required to develop a strong sense of urgency and, consequently, the willingness to take challenging actions.
Enhancing the abilities of public, private, farmers, and civil society actors or agents on an individual and institutional level will be beneficial because they can start and direct the numerous complicated and interconnected steps in food system transitions or, better still, food system transformation in Africa.
In Africa at large, effective and efficient mechanisms will be needed to support effective and inclusive governance that implements plans for transparency and accountability at all levels of governance. All stakeholders whether public, private, farmers, or civil society can participate in effective governance and contribute their perspectives and supporting data, when necessary, when agendas, policies, regulations, and investment decisions are transparent. Accountability necessitates independent bodies that can reach independent judgments, follow reputable assessment methodologies, and have access to adequate and trustworthy data.
Improving rural and urban infrastructure is primordial to developing the agricultural sectors. Therefore, broad innovations focusing on desired food system outcomes must be encouraged to create potential starting points for multi-level and multi-stakeholder transformational collaboration.
A gender-sensitive value chain approach can help reduce food insecurity as the State of Food and Agriculture. Moreover, it can strengthen value chain efficiency as value chains are highly dependent on solid linkages and positive collaboration among actors, and women are essential stakeholders all along value chains, though they are often invisible or overlooked.
The Promotion of traditional and local foods. Traditional diets are plant-based, diverse, and rich in micronutrients.
Reducing and transforming food waste in Africa will significantly thrive in addressing the food system. This can improve food security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve natural resources.
Encouraging plant-based diets in the continent. Diets rich in plant-based foods can contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of the food system and promoting health.
Supporting small-scale farmers, who play a crucial role in Africa's food system and promoting sustainable agriculture practices, can improve the food system's sustainability.
Africa’s agri-food system offers growth potential to large-scale, multinational agribusinesses. The presence of the AfCFTA initiative if realised would therefore contribute to the value and supply chain of the food system, increasehouseholds’ incomes in most regions of Africa and increase average food consumption throughout Africa. Changes in food prices are moderate but indicate higher food prices in most regions.
Yaya Deome Hamadjoda Lefe is senior Programme Officer on Food Systems and Climate Change at Global Climate Agriculture Youth Network (GCSAYN)