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Lessons from the African Food System Summit: Implications for Agribusinesses and smallholder farmers

Tanzania hosted Africa’s Food System Forum 2023 from September 5 to 8 in Dar es Salaam, with the theme of “Recover, Regenerate, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation”. The forum, organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), brought together over 3,000 participants from 70 countries, including heads of state, ministers, farmers, private sector actors, civil society organizations, youth and women groups, and development partners. The forum aimed to showcase Africa’s achievements and innovations in transforming its food systems, as well as to mobilize commitments and actions to accelerate the process.

Key quotes about the outcomes of the event:

H.E Samia Suluhu Hassan, the president of Tanzania, said that the forum was “a historic moment for Africa to showcase its achievements and potential in transforming its food systems”. H.E Hailemariam Dessalegn, the chair of the AGRF Partners Group, said that the forum was “a platform for Africa to share its solutions and best practices with the world”.

While Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit 2023, said that the forum was “a milestone for Africa to shape the global agenda on food systems”.

Highlights of important announcements

The forum also witnessed several announcements of new investments and partnerships to support Africa’s food systems transformation. Some of the notable ones are:

  1. The African Development Bank (AfDB) committed to invest $1.57 billion in 2023 to support 6.5 million farmers across 35 African countries to access improved seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation technologies.

  2. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $652 million over the next three years to support agricultural research and innovation, digital extension services, and market access for smallholder farmers in Africa.

  3. The Rockefeller Foundation announced a $150 million initiative to catalyze a green revolution in Africa by scaling up agroecological practices, strengthening seed systems, and enhancing soil health.

  4. The World Bank Group committed to providing $4 billion in financing over the next five years to support sustainable land management, climate-smart agriculture, and rural livelihoods in Africa.

  5. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a $500 million fund to support rural entrepreneurs and agribusinesses in Africa.

  6. The European Union (EU) announced a €200 million package to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in the agricultural sector.

  7. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) pledged £160 million over the next four years to support agricultural innovation, resilience, and trade in Africa.

  8. The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) committed to providing $3.5 billion in financing over the next five years to support food security, rural development, and agro-industrialization in Africa.

Implications for Agribusinesses and Small holder farmers across Africa

Agribusinesses in Africa stand to benefit significantly from the outcomes of the summit. With a focus on sustainability, there will be increased demand for eco-friendly agricultural inputs, machinery, and processing technologies. Agribusinesses should also explore opportunities in the digital agriculture space, providing farmers with the tools and services they need to adopt technology-driven practices. Access to finance initiatives can also create opportunities for agribusinesses to expand their reach and support the growth of the sector.

Implications for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholder farmers, who make up a substantial portion of Africa's agricultural workforce, will experience tangible improvements in their livelihoods due to the summit's outcomes. Increased access to finance means they can invest in better seeds, equipment, and farming practices. Market access initiatives will enable farmers to sell their products at fair prices, reducing post-harvest losses. Furthermore, the focus on sustainability and technology adoption will help smallholder farmers increase productivity and adapt to changing climate conditions.

In conclusion, the outcomes of the summit, including commitments to sustainability, increased investment in technology, and initiatives to empower smallholder farmers, have far-reaching implications for both agribusinesses and the millions of smallholder farmers in Africa. With collaborative efforts and sustained commitment, these outcomes have the potential to transform Africa's food systems and drive economic growth and food security for years to come.

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