OPINION: My Sweet and Sour TakeAways from the 14th CAADP-PP Meeting in Libreville, Gabon

From 25 to 27 April, top African agricultural experts, technical groups, government representatives, AU and NEPAD representatives, and non-State actors – all in total about 200 people converged in the City of Libreville in Gabon for the 14th CAADP meeting. The CAADP meeting was preceded by a two-day Malabo Policy learning event (PP) hosted in part by AGRA.

Being the first CAADP meeting I have attended, I came back with a mixed bag of takeaways. I will start with the sweet:

  • Enthusiasm. It was good to see packed and bustling meeting rooms. Unlike many international meetings I attend, this was unique in its own way – the majority of participants looked tuned into various presentations; and there was a significant appetite to engage and provide views, especially during the Policy learning days. Notwithstanding the unbearably hot weather, very few people skipped the sessions;
  • Momentous occasion. The first ever CAADP Biennial Review (BR) report that was submitted to the Heads of State in January was considered a success given that over 47 member states out of 55 participated in the exercise;
  • Transformation is happening. It was said that some countries used the BR outcomes to define and strategize around areas that need further attention in designing the second generation of National Agricultural Investment Plans (NAIPs). In some cases, BR results are triggering change, revealing data gaps, interrogation of datasets and informing discourse on what can be done at country level to ensure that agricultural development is achieved.

My ‘sour’ takeaways could be described as follows:

  • Lack of awareness and coordination – Four years post-Malabo declaration and almost 15 years after CAADP was endorsed, it appears that many stakeholders are still not particularly conversant with CAADP, although all African Heads of States are signatories of the Malabo declaration. Further, key stakeholders, including the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) do not seem to have any role despite their proximity to respective countries and their influence in policy implementation at country level. How will they help countries perform better if they have not been given the right platform? Are there any structural issues
  • Ownership – From the outset, although countries are supposed to be the custodians of the CAADP framework, it appears that AU, NEPAD and technical institutions (that led the BR exercise) are the indirect owners that are there to push countries to adhere to CAADP and implement the BR outcome.
  • CAADP as a silo – Any transformative agricultural agenda should equally and rightly consider other sectors that would contribute to its success. Infrastructure, transport, finance, environment, health and education to name a few ought to be considered in order to attain an inclusive agricultural transformation.
  • Data – Lack of data and the quality of data and their source seem to be a serious issue which threatens to question the BR results. There is an urgent call for units/departments that focus on agricultural statistics to provide specific input, in addition to what the national statistical agencies produce. Agricultural statistics are essential and their updating is required more frequently. Waiting for the national census every decade or the agricultural surveys (which are also expensive to undertake) is unlikely to yield helpful agricultural data.

In light of the above, below are a few questions to ponder as we all strive to ensure the agricultural transformation dream becomes a reality:
1. Where is the private sector in the CAADP implementation process?
2. How are countries supported in addressing and implementing BR recommendations, especially in aligning BR outcomes with other national development visions (beyond the agricultural sector)?
3. Are stakeholders clear on their respective roles? There is a need to clarify key stakeholders’ respective roles in CAADP adoption and BR’s outcomes implementation. In the absence of clear division of labour, it should be loud and clear that agricultural transformation will only come from within countries themselves – any international, continental or regional interventions will only support national efforts.
4. Are we taking enough risks? Apart from country ranking, what tangible activities or actions are we taking beyond the production of BR?
5. Is CAADP fully understood? Do we need to craft and package tools and instruments in ways that facilitate concerned stakeholders’ understanding? Are all CAADP indicators clear and inclusive? Is it time to undertake a review?

The discourse above reiterates the value of AGRA’s work. AGRA is committed to support countries realize their agricultural transformational dream, but this involves addressing the sour takeaways outlined above. Aiming high for agricultural transformation is not futile: ‘’Unless we aim for the seemingly unattainable, we risk settling for mediocrity’’, so said Sergion Viera de Mello. The BR report and the 14th CAADP meeting resolutions serve to enhance AGRA’s country support strategy. Re-strategising and bolstering our country support package will help encourage State capacity to bring about transformational change.

 

This article is written by Thierry Ngoga, AGRA’s Head of Country Support

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