Amid the coastal breezes of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, the future of Africa’s agriculture was being deliberated and sculpted between September 5th to 8th. Over 5400 delegates, including policy makers, farmers, entrepreneurs, and academics, converged at the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023, underscoring the continent’s shared vision for a robust, sustainable, and inclusive agricultural future.
A Gathering of Minds and Missions
With the participation of five Heads of State, 30 Ministers, and representatives from 90 countries, the message was clear: agriculture isn’t just a sector of the economy, it’s the very lifeline of the continent. The palpable enthusiasm and the urgent tone of discussions at the 13th annual gathering revealed both the challenges and the monumental opportunities that lie ahead. The sheer number of participants, as Mr. Amath Pathe, Managing Director of the Forum highlighted, was indicative of the continent’s commitment and urgency towards restructuring its food framework.
Scaling the Beacon of Innovation
One of the prominent takeaways from the four-day forum was that innovation wasn’t in short supply. Across the vast landscape of Africa, from the Sahel to the savannahs and from urban hubs to rural settlements, solutions are sprouting. These are interventions designed to increase yield, boost farmer incomes, reduce post-harvest losses, and enhance market access.
Yet, the conversation took a crucial turn: the need to scale. Localized solutions and pilot projects have demonstrated efficacy, but the need of the hour is to magnify these interventions, to ensure that a pilot success in Senegal can be replicated with equal effectiveness in Malawi or Zimbabwe.
Digitalization and the Agricultural Renaissance
In an era where technology drives change at an unprecedented pace, the forum aptly emphasized the role of digitalization in agriculture. From satellite-driven farm analytics to digital platforms for market access and from e-commerce for agricultural products to AI-driven pest prediction tools, the future of farming in Africa is digital. The consensus was evident: technology integration isn’t a luxury; it’s the imminent next step.
Towards Equitable Investments
One of the highlights of the gathering was the passionate address by Tanzania’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Hussein Mohamed Bashe. He moved away from a narrative of help to one of partnership. Africa’s smallholder farmers, he posited, do not need handouts. They need equitable partnerships and stakes in global funding. He, along with other leaders, championed the centrality of the youth and women in this transformation narrative, emphasizing the continent’s youthful demographic as its biggest asset.
Climate Action: From Words to Work
For a continent that bears a disproportionate brunt of global climate change, the emphasis on tangible action was evident. Strategies ranging from resilient seed varieties to sustainable water management practices were debated. The aim? To ensure that the African farmer isn’t just battling the elements but is equipped and empowered to adapt, sustain, and thrive.
The Power of Partnerships
If there was one recurrent theme that echoed in the corridors and conference halls, it was collaboration. As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The forum epitomized this sentiment. The future of African agriculture hinges on partnerships – across borders, sectors, and ideologies. It’s a collective journey where governments, businesses, civil societies, and grassroots communities come together with a shared vision.
Reflecting and Projecting Forward
The Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 wasn’t merely an event. It was a testament to Africa’s agricultural potential, a commitment to its people, and a blueprint for the future. It revealed the gaps, celebrated the successes, and plotted the course ahead.
As the forum concluded, the air was thick not just with hope but with determination. Africa, with its vast tracts of arable land, its young and dynamic workforce, its innovative spirit, and its indomitable will, is poised to not just feed itself but to be a food basket for the world.
The responsibility is enormous, but so is the commitment. As the delegates disperse, they carry with them action plans, partnerships, and a promise. The promise of a greener, richer, and more resilient African agricultural landscape. The journey is long, the challenges many, but the destination is clear: a food-secure, prosperous Africa.