Driving Transformation: Examining the Africa Food Prize’s Role in Inspiring Agricultural Innovation

Kilimokwanza.org recently had the privilege of engaging in a rich conversation with Mr. Boaz Blackie Keizire, the distinguished Head of the Africa Food Prize Secretariat. In this insightful discussion, Mr. Keizire shared his perspectives on a wide range of topics centered around the Africa Food Prize’s role in elevating the heroes of African agriculture, its milestones, challenges, and vision for the future.

Q1: Could you elucidate on the role of the Africa Food Prize in fostering innovation and promoting excellence in African agriculture?

A1: The $100 Africa Food Prize is awarded annually and plays a significant role in fostering innovation and promoting excellence in African agriculture by recognizing and rewarding individuals or institutions that are making transformative changes in the African agric-food systems. The prize incentivises innovators to develop solutions that can transform agriculture from a struggle to a thriving business. It encourages and supports bold initiatives and technical innovations, which not only have the potential to be replicated across the continent but also to redefine the face of Africa’s food systems landscape, contributing to food security and economic prosperity. The Africa Food Prize plays a vital role in promoting agricultural innovation and excellence in Africa by recognizing and celebrating outstanding achievements, fostering collaboration, inspiring others, sharing knowledge, and advocating for supportive policies

Q2: Could you share some significant milestones the Africa Food Prize achieved thus far?

A2: The Africa Food Prize has marked several significant milestones since its inception. These include recognizing diverse recipients ranging from government institutions, innovators, cutting esge scientistsand research organizations, to non-governmental organizations, and individuals men and women, young and old who have made significant strides in transforming the face of farming in Africa. Each winner is a testament to the potential of agriculture in Africa and inspires others. Their innovative approaches in various areas, including crop science, agribusiness, technology applications, policy, and advocacy, have contributed to increased productivity, income generation, and improved food security across the continent.

Q3: What are the pivotal challenges the Africa Food Prize addresses within the African agricultural landscape?

A3: The pivotal challenges that the Africa Food Prize is currently addressing revolve around the need for increased productivity, resilience to climate change, access to markets and capital for smallholder farmers, integration of women and youth in agrifood systems , and ensuring inclusive policy formulation and implementation. We aim to stimulate conversations and actions towards these issues by recognizing those making remarkable progress in these areas.

Q4: Could you offer some insights into the selection process for the Africa Food Prize awardees?

A4: The selection process for the Africa Food Prize awardees is rigorous and transparent. We have an independent panel of distinguished experts in African agriculture that assesses the nominees based on a set of criteria, including their contributions to reducing food insecurity, promoting sustainable agriculture practices, creating wealth among farmers, and contributing to policy changes that favor agricultural transformation. The process ensures that the awardee genuinely deserves recognition for their outstanding work in African agriculture. The process starts by announcing the nomination in Mid January and ends end of MAy. The Secretariat reviews nomination based on the guide and provides a long list that the Africa Food Prize Committee Assesses and rigorously identifies a winner. The winner is awarded the prize at the Gala Dinner and Award Winning Ceremony during the annual AGRF meetings in September.

Q5: Can you shed light on the vision of the Africa Food Prize for the forthcoming five years?

A5: The vision of the Africa Food Prize for the forthcoming five years is to amplify its impact by catalyzing more groundbreaking innovations in Africa’s agriculture, increasing recognition and support for change agents, and advocating for policies that enable the growth of the sector. We envision a more resilient, profitable, and sustainable agricultural sector that positions Africa as a global leader in sustainable food systems.

Q6: In your perspective, what are the most urgent issues in African agriculture that necessitate immediate attention?

A6: In my perspective, the most urgent issues in African agriculture that necessitate immediate attention include climate change adaptation, improving agricultural productivity, access to markets, and capital for smallholder farmers. Moreover, the integration of youth and women into the agricultural sector is essential, given their potential in driving the sector towards a more prosperous future.

Q7: How do you envision the role of technology in the future of African agriculture, and in what ways is the Africa Food Prize bolstering technological innovations?

A7: Technology will play a crucial role in the future of African agrifood systems by helping overcome some of the longstanding challenges such as low productivity, post-harvest losses, and limited market access. Use of data and artificial intelligence is going to be at the centre of innovation in responding to Africa’s agrifood systems. The Africa Food Prize encourages technological innovations by recognizing and rewarding innovators using technology to revolutionise farming practices, thereby leading to increased productivity and profitability. We foresee a future where technologies such as precision farming, drones, artificial intelligence, and digital platforms will become commonplace in Africa’s agricultural landscape.

Q8: How do you plan to engage the youth in future strategies of the Africa Food Prize, considering their integral role in the future of agriculture?

A8: Engaging the youth is fundamental to the future strategies of the Africa Food Prize. The youth represent a vibrant, dynamic demographic that can drive the future of agriculture. We plan to create more platforms for young people to showcase their innovations and have a bigger say in Africa’s agricultural transformation discourse. We are also keen on promoting initiatives that create an enabling environment for the youth to thrive in agri-business and agri-tech startups.