Rome/Harare — Largest ever Regional Conference for Africa closes with united call for raised ambitions
Ministers at the largest ever FAO Regional Conference for Africa have committed to 'raise ambitions and accelerate actions' towards achieving food security, at the close of the three day event.
Around 900 delegates including 95 ministers and other government officials from 48 countries have met in the context of rising food insecurity and malnutrition exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple overlapping crisis - climate change, transboundary pests and diseases, conflict and economic downturns.
In the Ministerial Declaration approved today, delegates committed to accelerate the transformation of African agriculture and agri-food systems, including through innovation and introducing digital technologies in the agriculture sector.
They also supported making further contributions to the African Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), describing it as an instrument "to show that Africa is capable of taking charge and leading priority programmes".
The Ministers also called on FAO to continue to ensure "greater flexibility and efficiency in the use of the Organization's limited existing financial and human resources" to support Members, and to provide further leadership in inter-agency collaboration on the transformation towards sustainable agri-food systems.
They further supported FAOs work with multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral platforms to strengthen dialogue, investments and innovation for sustainable agri-food systems, particularly in the lead up to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.
A success we can all be proud of
"This first virtual session of the Regional Conference for Africa was a success we can all be proud of," said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his closing remarks, describing the large attendance as "historic".
"I have listened intently to the views and priorities raised during this Conference and have taken note of your recommendations in how FAO can serve you better. The inputs from the region are vital in shaping FAO's strategic outlook and actions," he said.
Innovation and digital technologies for food security
Many of the Conference sessions focused on how innovation and digital technology can radically drive progress towards food security in Africa.
"The very modality of this virtual meeting is a reminder that we are in a new era where modern technology can transform our lives," Director-General QU said. "It can bring us closer together even though we're further apart physically. It can open access to new markets and facilitate easier trade, it can provide vital information for a farmer right into his or her hand, and it can help end hunger and improve lives in ways the world is only beginning to discover," he said.
Hand-in-hand for Africa's future
A prominent example of applying innovative approaches and modern technologies, which was highlighted at the Conference, is FAO's Hand-in-Hand Initiative. The initiative is being implemented in 11 African countries so far: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, with numerous countries expressing interest to adhere as well.
The initiative deploys sophisticated tools, including advanced geospatial modelling and analytics such as the Geospatial Platform and the Data Lab for Statistical Innovation. These provide high-quality, accessible, timely and reliable data assisting countries' informed, strategic decision-making and evidence-based policies.
Earlier in the day, the Director-General told participants in a session on the Committee on World Food Security that the CFS is "a unique platform" that can more closely align with regions to work together to eradicate hunger.
He also launched a joint publication with the African Union on gender and agrifood systems, stating that gender equality and women's empowerment need to be at the centre of building back better, stronger, more resilient, sustainable agri-food systems.
At the close of the Conference, the Director-General and delegates praised the Government of Zimbabwe for hosting the virtual event. The Director-General in particular thanked the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the Minister for Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Anxious Jongwe Masuka who chaired the Regional Conference.