By Christine Muchira
The 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) wrapped up Friday with pledges of more than US $30 billion dollars in investments over the next 10 years to increase production, income and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses.
The event delivered a massive infusion of both financial, political and policy commitments to African farmers and agriculture businesses on a continent eager for new, more inclusive opportunities for economic growth.
AGRF 2016 attracted more than 1,500 delegates from 40 countries, including African Heads of State, global business leaders, government ministers, farmers, agribusiness firms, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society groups and scientists, as well as international development and technical partners.
“Seize the Moment”
According to AGRF organizers, that’s the largest single package of financial commitments ever delivered to African agriculture.
It is backed by the broadest coalition ever assembled to support a transition from subsistence to income-earning agriculture in Africa. The AGRF partners concluded the meeting by embracing a detailed action plan that commits them to achieving specific milestones over the next 16 months as part of the “Seize the Moment” campaign that served as the theme for AGRF 2016.
“Seize the Moment” was first launched in April at the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP) Partnership Platform in Accra, Ghana. It has quickly become a rallying point for accelerating work around the African Union’s 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The transformation of Africa will only work if we transform agriculture,” said Kenya’s President, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, speaking to a packed auditorium at the United Nations’ Africa Headquarters in Nairobi. “This meeting has been not only important, but also very urgent,” he added. “Because we are coming together at a time when our continent is filled with incredible opportunity, but at the same time it also is faced with profound threats in almost equal measure.”
President Kenyatta stepped forward as one of the first champions of the “Seize the Moment” campaign with a commitment by his government to invest US $200 million so at least 150,000 young farmers and young agriculture entrepreneurs can gain access to markets, finance and insurance.
His Excellency President Paul Kagame of Rwanda joined Kenyatta on stage to challenge leaders on the continent and around the world to harness the potential of agriculture to fight hunger and poverty in Africa. Rwanda has emerged as a strong example of what investments in agriculture can achieve. According to the World Bank, Rwanda under Kagame’s leadership has achieved dramatic reductions in poverty, “owing largely to increased productivity and commercialization in the agriculture sector.”
“We should not only seize the moment but continue the momentum for the transformation of agriculture and economies on our continent,” President Kagame said. “Agriculture is not just one sector of the economy amongst others it’s the backbone of the economy.”
Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, the Honorable Willy Bett, speaking at the AGRF closing ceremony, praised President Kagame and President Kenyatta for their commitment to the Forum and said it was now up to the AGRF delegates to “do our part and drive this agenda forward.”
A Concrete Action Plan to Seize the Moment for African Agriculture
In the final communiqué from the meeting, delegates pledged over the next 16 months to focus on smallholder farmers to achieve significant growth in agriculture productivity and profits in at least 20 countries while unleashing US $200 billion in investments in the agriculture sector. The action plan also commits countries to developing a public “scorecard” that would track progress and hold them accountable.
Specific commitments include unlocking 10 percent of public expenditures for agriculture, as many countries agreed to do when they first joined the CAADP partnership. Actions steps also will involve launching innovative approaches to providing finance for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses and working through initiatives such as GROW Africa to bring in at least $20 billion in private investment.
“This has been the most productive AGRF since the call to launch the Green Revolution in Africa was made ten years ago by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan,” said Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which serves as the secretariat for AGRF. “As an alliance, AGRA is committed to working every day with our partners to ensure the ‘Seize the Moment’ campaign has a tangible, meaningful impact in the lives of millions of Africans.”
A key highlight from AGRF 2016 included the launch of the African Agriculture Status Report (AASR) for 2016. The report detailed progress over the last decade and identified key priorities for moving ahead.
The head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Gayle Smith, launched a global report entitled “A Food Secure 2030.” She told delegates that as President Barack Obama’s administration comes to a close, she was confident that the US would continue to be deeply engaged in African agriculture for many years to come.
She pointed to the overwhelming support across the political spectrum for President Obama’s Global Food Security Act and his Feed the Future initiative.
Other promises include pledges by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation to continue their generous support for African agriculture and particularly for partnerships established by AGRA over the last ten years.
Also, Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), was awarded the inaugural Africa Food Prize.
The Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, selected Dr. Nwanze for his outstanding leadership and passionate advocacy in putting Africa’s smallholder farmers at the center of the global agricultural agenda.
“Dr. Nwanze is a model for how a great leader can make a difference in the lives of people on the ground,” Obasanjo said.