African leaders have called for greater investment in agriculture at the African Union summit closing Friday in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. Leaders also discussed concerted efforts to address conflicts smoldering across the continent from South Sudan to Central African Republic.
The AU has focused this year's summit on tackling issues of agriculture and climate change as part of the continental body's overall development goals to create jobs and to improve food security.
African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkoszana Dlamini Zuma led the call for greater public and private investment to bring high-tech innovation to African farming during summit opening remarks on Thursday. "Our agriculture, in the main, is still quite traditional and not modern. A practical priority, therefore, is to modernize and mechanize," he said.
Irungu Houghton, senior adviser for the African Green Revolution Forum, said African ministers meeting in Malabo would be zeroing in on some key areas for further investment.
"First of all, there is the issue how to increase productivity, how to strengthen the security of land tenure systems, particularly for women, how to ensure that you have national adaptation to climate change, or what we call climate-smart agriculture, so you're not requiring large scale irrigation programs in a continent that is beginning to feel the effects of climate change," Houghton stated.
Dlamini-Zuma also noted the threat that conflicts across Africa poses to agricultural development and food security, calling specifically for a stop to the violence in South Sudan.
Addressing the summit on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promised continued collaboration between the AU and the UN to solve conflicts around the world, pointing out joint peacekeeping efforts in the Central African Republic, political support in Somalia and mediation efforts in South Sudan.
Ban met on the sidelines with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to discuss the situation in the country, torn apart by a political conflict since late last year.
A statement from the secretary-general's office said he urged Kiir to resume talks with political rival Riek Machar to resolve the crisis.
The African Union has also been working toward the establishment of a standby peacekeeping force that can be rapidly deployed to intervene in regional conflicts.