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Meridian Institute

New Report Released: Optimism for African Agriculture and Food Systems

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Chairs’ Summary of the high-level dialogue, “Harnessing Innovation for African Agriculture and Food Systems:  Meeting the Challenges and Designing for the 21st Century,”  is now available. On 25-26 November 2013, the African Union Commission (AUC) and Kofi Annan Foundation, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened a select group of senior African leaders and distinguished guests in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss steps necessary to sustain the momentum of the many positive transformations taking place in African agriculture and food systems. The meeting was planned and facilitated by Meridian Institute and Mandi Rukuni.
 
The dialogue was chaired by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AUC, and former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. At the high-level dialogue, a select group of distinguished leaders with a deep commitment to African agricultural development discussed recent models of success, assessed critical challenges, and charted opportunities for concerted action. They recognized that scaling, amplifying, and transferring success needs to be accomplished in a way that allows for unique regional and national approaches and that future progress will require commitment from all sectors.

The report, “Optimism for African Agriculture and Food Systems”, argues that the strong growth experienced by several African countries must be proactively supported by immediate and decisive leadership by additional African leaders.
 
“If leaders step in to create conducive environments for smallholder farmers and capture the potential of youth in the labor force, Africa’s future will be bright”, Kofi Annan, founding chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, said. “If African leaders create the right financial and market incentives, enable access to innovation, and engage the private sector, Africans will be able to feed not just themselves, but export food to other parts of the world. Building on the CAADP framework and important transformations underway, this is surely the moment for African leadership and vision to fully blossom.”
 
The report reinforces the urgency for policy leadership to unlock Africa’s agricultural potential. With Africa’s growing population set to double by 2050, effective leadership could transform demographic challenges into opportunities by tapping into a growing and increasingly skilled workforce. AUC Commissioner Rhoda Peace Tumusiime concurred, noting, “There are important trends such as urbanization and a growing youth population that we must view as great opportunities for Africa - from which to build a prosperous rural and urban development strategy, rather than as trends to be viewed with alarm.” Key to realizing these opportunities will be encouraging entrepreneurship in the middle of the agri-food supply chain (e.g., in processing and distribution), market incentives, and better access to data and innovation.
 
Additional details about the high-level dialogue and the report can be found here:  http://www.merid.org/Africanagricultureandfoodsystems/Chairs_Summary.aspx