The world must do more to unleash Africa's full potential in agriculture, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said while also urging the continent's leaders and development partners to combat growing social and economic inequalities.
"Greater equity presents a common challenge to the continent as a whole and can help foster peace and stability," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to mark Africa Day, which commemorates the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU).
"Transformation, growth, dynamism, progress and partnership" are central to the AU's narrative, Mr. Ban said, pledging the UN's continued cooperation on partnerships to pursue peace, sustainable development, democracy and human rights.
Highlighting this year's theme for Africa Day, which focuses on agriculture and food security, Mr. Ban noted that two out of three people on the continent are employed by the agricultural sector even as hunger persists in various countries.
With an average annual GDP increase of 4.8 per cent between 2000 and 2010, up from 2.1 per cent in the previous decade, Africa has seven out of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world. The agriculture sector, in particular, has progressed considerably, with the intensification of staple food production.
"By processing commodities and using other means to add value, we can help develop rural areas, create jobs and empower people while ensuring food security," said Mr. Ban, whose 'Zero Hunger Challenge' aims for a future where every individual has adequate nutrition.
First proposed at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the Zero Hunger Challenge aims to scale up efforts to eliminate hunger through sustainable agriculture and food systems.
Its five objectives are to make sure that everyone in the world has access to enough nutritious food all year long; to end childhood stunting; to build sustainable food systems; to double the productivity and income of smallholder farmers, especially women; and to prevent food from being lost or wasted.
This year's commemoration of the Day also falls amid observances of the ongoing International Year of Family Farming, which aims to mobilize support for smallholder farmers, particularly women.
In his message, Mr. Ban also urged African leader to participate in his Climate Summit this September noting that the continent is among "the regions most vulnerable" to climate change.