African Union Summit Ends on Several Agriculture High Notes

Written by D.A. Barber

The 23rd Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union – held June 20-27 – wrapped up in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on Friday, June 27, with a number of advances announced.

Organized under the theme: “2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security”, the African leaders attending the Summit were unanimous on the strategies needed to promote the continent’s agricultural development, a sector which, accounts for one third of Africa’s GDP and employs about 60 percent of the labor force.

The Summit was also significant as in that it commemorated the 10 year anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program.

African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma called for increased public-private investment; more irrigation projects, increased access to land; and better use of science and technology to modernize farming.

A March 2013 World Bank report, Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness, called on governments to work side-by-side with agribusinesses to link farmers with consumers in what is becoming an increasingly urbanized Africa.

The World Bank notes that “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to rise from 4.7 percent in 2013 to a forecasted 5.2 percent in 2014.”

But as far as Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth, “agriculture is under-performing, a point that was also echoed in this detailed study which says that Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 if they can expand their access to more capital, electricity, better technology and irrigated land to grow high-value nutritious foods,” Phil Hay, World Bank Spokesperson for the Africa Region told AFKInsider.

Nevertheless, African leaders were confident that Africa can reach the AU target of ending hunger by 2025.

The Summit reaffirmed the importance of agriculture in generating income, creating jobs – particularly for young people and women, and enhancing the malnourished health of the people, as well as diversifying the economy and even increasing international trade of food as an export.

To achieve these objectives, the leaders believe it is urgent to increase investment in the sectors of agriculture, agribusiness, science and technology, and energy, water, telecommunication and road infrastructures.

In her statement addressing the official opening of the Summit on June 23, African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zumasaid agriculture and food security are a critical priority for Africa.

“If we get this right, it has the potential – along with what we do with the Blue economy – not only to propel us towards our goal of eradicating poverty and hunger in one generation, but also to contribute towards the industrialization through agro-processing and the development of infrastructure”, Dr. Zuma noted, reiterating that agriculture and agribusinesses are critical to the empowerment of people, especially women and youth.

Summit Highlights

During the June 26 General Assembly session African leaders committed to a number of milestones to reflect “The Vision of the Agriculture We Want”.

African Union Commission Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture Commissioner, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, stated that agricultural transformation should be driven by its citizens.

“Africa needs sustainable transformation and inclusiveness through agriculture to benefit both the present and future generations, it also requires more innovative technologies, public and private investment to be able to mobilize resources for inter-Africa trade,” Commissioner Peace said.

Speaking on June 26, Mozambican Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina said his government’s District Development Fund is “turning peasants into farmers” and “driving agro-processing to conserve crops, reduce post-harvest losses and add value to agricultural produce.”

The District Development Fund launched in 2006 with an allocation of $229,000 from the state budget to each of Mozambique’s 128 districts, to be lent to viable projects for boosting food security and creating jobs. Mozambican Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco added that Mozambique is now allocating more than ten per cent of its budget to agriculture, in line with the 2003 Maputo Declaration which urges all African countries to devote at least 10 per cent of their annual budgets to agriculture.

“We have witnessed progress on the allocation of public expenditures to agriculture, which have been increasing at an average rate of 7.4% per year since the adoption of Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program,” Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Peace told the Ordinary Session of the Assembly on June 27.

In a statement on the African Union Summit’s outcome, Jane Karuku, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa noted: “Several countries that significantly increased their agricultural investments – such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Rwanda – experienced tremendous progress, not just in agriculture, but also in economic growth across their economies,” adding that their investments in agriculture have “coincided with major reductions in the percentage of people living in extreme poverty: Ethiopia by 49 percent; Ghana by 44 percent; and Burkina Faso by 37 percent.”

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa is co-convening – with the African Union, African Development Bank, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, among others – the September African Green Revolution Forum in Addis Ababa to critically examine the decisions made at the African Union summit.

South African President Jacob Zuma said African leaders have identified the need for young people to understand the economic importance of agriculture.

During the Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly Zuma stated: “An emerging issue identified by the AU leaders was the need for young people to appreciate the importance of agriculture in the economy of their countries.” President Zuma added: “Women must take the lead in agriculture and contribute to this growing economic activity, which is vital for dealing with food security.”

Angola’s vice president, Manuel Domingos Vicente, said on June 26 that the African agriculture should be changed to allow increase of production and availability of food for the population, as well as increase family income and creation of jobs, noting Angola plans to organize an upcoming conference on Family Agriculture.

The UN designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming to focus attention on the critical role of small-scale farmers in bolstering food security and promote policy and practice changes aimed at helping family farmers – who work over 60 percent of the agricultural land in Africa – to realize their full potential.

UN Support

Representatives from the United Nations underscored the importance of the AU’s focus on agriculture.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Director General, José Graziano da Silva congratulated African leaders on June 26 for “raising the bar” in the fight against hunger. During a meeting of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development at the Summit, Graziano da Silva said he shared the priority to cut dependence on food imports.

Also during the summit, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization-managed Africa Solidarity Trust Fund announced support to four new projects in 24 African countries at a June 25 ceremony that included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

The four projects, worth $16 million and spread across West, Central, East, and Southern Africa, will focus on “youth employment and malnutrition, transboundary animal diseases and food safety and urban food security.”

“In Africa we see the growing commitment of countries not only to improving their own food security, but that of their neighbors as well,” said UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Graziano da Silva. “The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund is a concrete manifestation of Africa’s willingness to work together to guarantee the food security of the entire continent,” he added.

Other Summit Developments

Fast-Tracking Free Trade -On the sidelines of Summit, the Department of Trade and Industry convened the 3rd High Level African Trade Committee meeting on June 25 to facilitate fast-tracking of the continental free trade area and the action plan for boosting intra-African trade. While considering the Report of the High Level Committee on African Trade, the Assembly also directed the AU members to prepare draft terms for the Continental Free Trade Area Negotiating Forum for consideration and subsequent endorsement by the Assembly in January 2015 prior to launching of the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations in June/July 2015.

Silencing the Guns -The African Union’s vision of Africa is that the guns should fall silent across the continent before 2020 to enable agricultural transformation to flourish – which will require great political will and understanding between nations and their peoples.

“We need conditions of peace and stability, and for our people not to be under threat from armed gangs, terrorists and human and arms traffickers and from poachers,” African Union Commission Chairperson Zuma said, calling on stakeholders to work to “create conditions for our people to return home without fear, to plow their fields and to rebuild their lives.”

“The Africa We Want” -The Assembly received an update on the fifty year inclusive growth and sustainable development vision for Africa: Agenda 2063, popularly known as “The Africa We Want”. The Assembly instructed the commissioners to solicit further input from the African citizenry on Agenda 2063 flagship programs, such as the Continental Free Trade Area, free movement of people, the continental integrated high-speed rail network, and report to the Summit in January 2015 where Agenda 2063 and its first ten year plan is expected to be adopted.

“We are already in year one of the fifty years horizon of Agenda 2063. We are therefore paying particular attention to those priority areas that will propel our agenda forward in the first decade,” Commission Chairperson Zuma told Summit leaders.

The Assembly also adopted an African Union budget for 2015 of $522,121,602, including $142,687,881 for operational costs and $379,433,721 for programs.