Africa is on the move. The signs of progress and growing prosperity are evident across the continent. The lives and livelihoods of millions of people are improving, and entire economies are growing at a brisk pace. These rapid changes are giving rise to even greater aspirations for the years ahead. Many African nations are pushing to achieve middle income status in the next 30 years, and a few others are gunning for high income status.
These aspirations are attainable, but to realize them will require Africa’s agriculture sector and its food systems to more rapidly and sustainably deliver increased incomes, food security, improved nutrition, and wider economic opportunities. For all of the recent signs of progress, Africa still needs to move from food shortages to surpluses, boost beneficial continental trade, and create millions of employment opportunities, particularly for women and youth. Business as usual will not achieve our goals; we must do more and do it more successfully. It is apt therefore that this year’s Forum is taking place in Kigali, Rwanda. Our host country in 2018, Rwanda, has recently been recognized by the African Union Commission as the top performing country at the continental CAADP Biennial Review. The accolade celebrated Rwanda’s progress in placing agriculture at the center of its wider economic transformation and strengthening the sector’s role in driving improvements in household incomes, food security and better nutrition, and poverty reduction. A
GRF 2018 – A Forum for ‘Africa’s 80%’ Africa can and should follow a path similar to that of Rwanda in order to achieve a more prosperous and equitable future. To realize this dream, we must unleash the full potential of ‘Africa’s 80%’ – the millions of smallholder farmers and their families who earn their livelihoods from small-scale farms and agribusinesses – who provide some 80% of the food and agricultural products consumed across the continent. AGRF 2018 offers a truly unique opportunity for significant progress towards this goal. The event together with its many follow-on activities are designed to energize political will and advance the policies, programs, and investments required to achieve an inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation across the continent.
We will evaluate current realities at all levels – local, national, regional and international – in order to identify and catalyze critical next steps towards more fully integrated and sustainable national and regional agriculture sectors. We will identify and showcase dynamic leaders from all sectors who are driving transformation and are able to provide evidence and lessons about what works. We will work to mobilize and lock in essential public and private financial commitments, creating a marketplace of ideas populated by potential investors looking to make deals and support the transformation of African agriculture. This marketplace of ideas is a new addition to the AGRF and reflects the strong transactional orientation of the meeting, providing opportunities to negotiate financial backing for early-stage agribusinesses and helping to bring African youth to the fore of sustainable agricultural development.
The era of disruptive innovation, knowledge economies, and big data is opening new opportunities, and AGRF 2018 provides a platform for crowdsourcing ideas and financial commitments – and to make sure these are followed through on and having the desired impacts. We must use the new opportunities before us to become better and faster at deploying solutions that allow us to leapfrog ahead to an era of sustained and inclusive development through value addition and the creation of viable agribusinesses. With inspirational leadership, and by measuring and tracking the progress we all want to see, we can chart and advance the journey to Africa’s future and prosperity.