In an urgent call to bolster Africa’s food production and security, Kenyan President William Samoei Ruto, US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, and several other leaders convened at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2023 on Monday. The leaders underscored the necessity of revitalizing value chains across the continent to rectify the dire food scarcity situation, especially in East Africa.
At the close of 2022, nearly 32 million individuals in the region urgently required food assistance, with over 6 million being children under five. The food production rate in Africa remains the lowest globally, with grave repercussions on the population’s nutrition and food security.
In his address, President Ruto lamented the prevalent hunger, depicting it as a humanitarian crisis that starkly contrasts with Africa’s enormous potential for surplus food production. He compared the paradoxical situation to the continent’s underdevelopment amidst abundant resources. Ruto urged for collaborative efforts to utilize the potential fully, thereby rewriting Africa’s narrative from a region marred by starvation and poverty to one flourishing with abundance and prosperity.
Highlighting the catastrophic impacts of food insecurity, Yellen emphasized the moral obligation and economic necessity to address the crisis. She called for a revamp of multilateral development banks to tackle the broader challenges contributing to food insecurity, including pandemics, conflicts, and climate change.
President Ruto highlighted several success stories from private sector-led initiatives that are paving the way towards a prosperous agricultural future for Africa. Notable mentions included Sanergy, which transforms organic waste into valuable products; SunCulture, known for its solar energy irrigation technology; and Del Monte, which recently invested heavily in a fresh fruit packing facility that partners with local Kenyan farmers.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power noted the transitional potential of subsistence farmers into entrepreneurs, facilitated by initiatives like the USAID’s Feed the Future program. This transformation could catalyze enhanced livelihoods and education opportunities, breaking the cycle of subsistence farming for the next generation.
Norwegian Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim emphasized the importance of small-scale farmers and food value chains in achieving food sovereignty in African nations. She called for strategic investments to de-risk private investments in the agriculture sector, thereby fostering self-sufficiency and reducing dependency on costly imports.
Akinwumi Adesina, the African Development Bank President, accentuated the need for Africa to be self-reliant in food production. He cited the Bank’s swift $1.5 billion initiative launched in response to the Ukraine war to support African farmers and reduce dependency on foreign aid.
Scott Nathan, the CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation, highlighted their role in supporting financial institutions worldwide, including in Africa, to facilitate lending to smallholder farmers and improve logistics to curb food wastage.