(SLENA, 4th May, 2021). His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has participated in a high-level online meeting organised to identify ways to expand activities, financing and partnerships that will leverage innovation and technology to transform food systems in Africa.
Outcomes of the meeting, co-hosted by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and IFAD, with CGIAR and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, will be shared with the Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome in July and at the Food Systems Summit in October 2021.
The organisers argued that the COVID-19 pandemic was already impacting food security across Africa, “exasperating pre-existing impacts of climate change, rising fragility and conflict, and adverse events, such as locust invasions in East and Southern Africa. Africa must urgently strengthen its food systems as an integral part of efforts to recover from the pandemic and build resilience”.
President Bio opened his statement by recognising the input of colleague Excellencies and thanking Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank Group, Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President & CEO, Dangote Group and his friend, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, Executive Chairman, Institute for Global Change, for an enlightening opening session.
He observed that shrinking economies all over the world and global supply chain disruptions had further aggravated foreign exchange constraints, adding that augmenting local food supplies was a challenge given the new reality.
“These disruptions, therefore, leave us with three key questions: a) How do we cope with pre-existing challenges in the agriculture sector especially given COVID-19 disruptions? b) How do we cope with food supply and nutritional deficits, c) How do we plan new investments that can make our food systems more robust and more resilient?
“So, this meeting is very timely as we can share ideas and start thinking collectively about how to resolve some of these challenges and thus improve local food supplies, reduce import substitution, and create sustainable jobs for farmers including youth and women in rural areas,” he asserted.
President Bio recalled that in the last three years his Government had made good progress toward the CAADP commitment of allocating a minimum of 10% of the national budget to agriculture, adding that in 2018 the allocation was about 2.14% and progressed to 4.25% and 6.0 in 2019 and 2020 respectively. He said the 2021 target was 7% and expected to increase over the next three years to support the new shift in policy.
“I have argued that science, technology, and innovation allow us to leapfrog in development. The same argument holds for agricultural production. To improve yield per acreage, Government research agencies and private actors are working to develop and make improved and adaptable seeds available to farmers,” he said.