It is a pleasure for me to be with you tonight. It is an honour for Rwanda to serve as host for this important gathering on African food security. You are most welcome.
We are especially fortunate to be joined by brothers, former President Obasanjo and former Prime Minister Hailemariam. Thank you both for your outstanding leadership on this topic, which is so crucial for our continent.
I would like to take a moment to emphasise the significance of the communiqué that has just been signed.
First, we see the five key organisations coming together with a common agenda for African agriculture. Working together with that clarity, we are going to get a lot more done.
In practical terms, it means that the commitments and priorities of the multilateral institutions are fully aligned with the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and Agenda 2063. This is a major step, and I congratulate you.
Second, the communiqué reflects the urgency of the food security situation in Africa. We are off track with the Malabo Declaration target to eradicate hunger by 2025.
In fact, since it was signed in 2014, undernourishment has been rising again in many African countries. Almost 20 per cent of Africans are undernourished.
Here in Rwanda, we have had our struggles with this, but I assure you that with the knowledge that has been put in our hands, as well as the technology and the support of partners, while also ensuring that everyone participates, we are going to fix this problem. And we are going to succeed. I want to say: If we can, then everyone can.
Undernourishment will negatively impact today’s children throughout their lives. If the trend is left unchecked, the entire human development agenda in Africa is at risk. We cannot allow that to happen.
The third feature of the Africa Food Security Leadership Dialogue — which is also the most important one — is that the necessary actions are clearly spelled out. I want to refer to the point made by former President Obasanjo that we really need political action, we need execution, we need to do the very things we have possibilities for and that we know we can do for better results.
For example, there is no doubt that climate change is the main cause of the slower growth in food production in recent years. We already know that, but we also know what can be done in these circumstances. Compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s, there has been a five-fold increase in the frequency of climate-related shocks in Africa, especially drought.
Most of climate change’s contribution to poverty will come via agriculture. Therefore, the communiqué puts a heavy emphasis on implementing climate-smart agriculture policies, investments, and research.
Conflict is another driver of food insecurity identified in the statement. Security and governance are the basis of everything else we wish to do. Agricultural policies must take account of this wider context.
Let me conclude by highlighting the essential role of the private sector and of African economic integration.
Productive agriculture depends on a complex value chain of goods and services. But African markets are fragmented and inefficient. Most of our firms lack scale, and investment in ICTs and data tools is still very low. As food travels from farm to table, a great deal is simply lost to waste.
And overall, we are producing much less than we are capable of. We cannot put the blame for this situation on changing weather patterns alone. Africa’s farmers were poor before we saw and acknowledged climate change becoming a factor. So there are many problems we need to tackle at the same time without seeking for an excuse in one instance or the other. We cannot afford to go on like this and there is no point we cannot change.
Improving the enabling environment for agriculture is something we can fully control. This is the reason why the African Continental Free Trade Area is of the very highest importance for our future. The AfCFTA is now in force and trading will commence in July 2020.
Equally important, is the harmonisation of food safety standards and trade facilitation platforms across Africa, both through the Regional Economic Communities and the African Union.
Increased agricultural productivity is essential for eradicating hunger and undernourishment. But food security is not where we stop. We want a continent that is truly prospering, in every sense of the term. And agriculture is undoubtedly the foundation of Africa’s prosperity.
That is the larger ambition we must challenge ourselves to achieve. We owe it to the generations that follow us.
I will therefore on this point wish you fruitful deliberations tomorrow. But for now, let me ask you to relax a bit over dinner and enjoy a very pleasant evening in each other’s company. Thank you for your kind attention.