As 2021 comes to a close, we are pausing to reflect on a year that has enriched our understanding of how we can support the communities we serve to be more resilient and thrive – even under difficult circumstances.  

This year began with an ongoing pandemic, requiring us to rethink our approach to our investments in Africa’s food systems. Amidst border closures and limitation of movement directives, we had to think deeply about the impact of our work on farmers, the private sector, agricultural systems, country-led development, gender inclusivity and strategic partnerships.

Our emerging results report, which covered progress in our current strategy, provided insight for our next steps by emphasizing the need to increase investment in systemic change as well as sustainability. Taking into account this information alongside the ongoing climate emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted our approach to sustain our support to smallholder farmers across our areas of operation:  in systems development, state capability and partnerships.

In the section below, you will see examples of the results of our work throughout 2021. These all contribute to our objectives of participating in the global goals of ending poverty and hunger, improving nutrition, and supporting climate adaptation and resilience.

Systems development – AGRA continues to build, with its partners, the systems that farmers need to prosper.   Improved varieties of seed are key to Africa’s food system transformation. This area has been an area of focus for AGRA’s current strategy. During our early years and in our current strategy, we have invested in training the scientists needed to transform Africa’s seed production industry. Having provided support for over 800 African scientists to obtain post-graduate degrees in the last decade, building hundreds of indigenous seed companies, in 2021 we went a step further to launch the first Center of Excellence for Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA) to champion the development of quality seed of improved varieties on the continent. CESSA will convene seed actors to help fill gaps and build the capacities of scientists, developing varieties that respond to the needs of farmers in Sub Saharan Africa. The Center will begin operations in 2022, supporting governments, the private sector and development partners to deliver modern, effective and resilient seed systems that serve African farmers better.

  • Women and youth– Recognizing the important role that women and youth play in Africa’s food systems, in 2021 we created more opportunities to support women and youth smallholder farmers and agripreneurs.
    • Our continental initiative aimed at strengthening women’s agribusiness enterprises, VALUE4HER grew nearly 100%. At year end, over 2,000 women-owned agribusinesses from 39 African countries have registered on the platform. These businesses have annual turnover of between US$20,000 and US$100,000. Engagement on the platform grew by nearly 400% in 2021. This growth in engagement is crucial, as VALUE4HER is a platform not only where women benefit from training to hone their business skills, but   the platform connects women agripreneurs to leverage their success and learn from each other.
    • At AGRA we celebrate innovation! AGRA’s youth-focused partnership Generation Africa continued its engagements through the GoGettazz Agripreneur prize and Pitch Agrihack, which saw 12 youth-led agripreneurs win US165,000 to advance their businesses.  In 2021, winning businesses included a community-focused, socially conscious avocado processing and manufacturing company, and a business that uses solar powered cold rooms to  reduce post-slaughter loss throughout East Africa’s livestock value chain.
  • Leadership training for agriculture ministries – We launched the Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA), which is supporting countries and agriculture sector leaders to deliver on national priorities in African agriculture and nutrition security. CALA is targeting training 160 officials in African agriculture ministries over the next three years.
  • Access to finance –The AGRF Agribusiness Dealroom, an investment mobilization and match-making platform, continued its role of bridging the US$23 billion financing gap in Africa’s agricultural sector, by linking 4,000 government officials, investors and entrepreneurs from 89 countries to an investment pipeline worth USD 5.1b.  Outside the Dealroom, the AGRF Summit, which was attended by 8,300 participants, reported over US$12.5 billion in planned funding within the next nine years to support programs that will transform value chains in dairy and rice as well as new initiatives to support entrepreneurship, renewable energy, and innovation.
  • Building resilient food systems – With climate change and other shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic posing great risks to Africa’s food security, we engaged extensively with leaders and partners at the global level, at the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) and COP26, seeking solutions that will make Africa’s food systems resilient.
    • Notably, we actively participated in the preparation of the Africa Common Position, which outlined the continent’s priorities at the UNFSS in New York. Africa’s position on climate change requires, among other things, the mobilization of additional financial resources to Africa for climate friendly technologies to address both the urgent adaptation and mitigation needs of the continent.
    • And in November, we contributed greatly to discussions at and around COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where we shared Africa’s concerns and priorities in the quest for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Looking ahead

We have come to the end of our five-year strategy and what a journey it has been! Next year, 2022, will be a transition period during which we will review and showcase the outcomes of our investments since 2017, as we prepare for another five-year strategy period of driving inclusive agricultural transformation plans. AGRA will target more tightly its work for impact, and build stronger partnerships and alliances to drive the development of agriculture  and food systems across the continent.

During this period, we will also strengthen our institutional and technical capacities to strengthen AGRA’s position as the go-to institution supporting the development and scaling of Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (IAT) tools, technologies and models. We are anchoring our ambition on accelerating momentum towards the achievement of the Malabo targets by leveraging the partnerships that magnify our impact.

Food systems is an opportunity for transformation in food and agriculture!   We will build off our collaboration in 2021 to secure new commitments to the CAADP processes, targeting hunger and poverty, boosting intra-African trade, enhancing resilience to climate variability, securing investments in agriculture and promoting mutual accountability to actions and results within our various partnerships.  

Happy Holidays!

During this challenging year, I have reflected often on an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It is in this spirit of transforming agriculture and ending hunger – together! – that I wish to thank all of you for your active engagement in the journey towards our IAT goals amidst the complexities of 2021. We could not have done it without you!

On this note, we at AGRA wish you a very joyful holiday season, and as we move into 2022, our hope is that we continue to come together and continue to support each other to end hunger on the continent  – for people,  for planet for prosperity!

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Agnes Kalibata