Dr Agnes Kalibata is urging world leaders to increase job-creating investments in Africa’s agricultural sector as the sure way to make the continent’s food systems sustainable.

She is worried Africa’s food security situation is in a challenging state currently, explaining; “two to three Africans live in the agricultural sector. In the food system. They get their livelihood in the food system, which is failing.”

“Two to three mothers are struggling to feed their children,” she added.

Speaking at a session on food systems transformation at the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summit 2023 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Dr. Kalibata urged international partners to do things differently.

The session sought to mobilise and expand commitments from UN member states to prioritise food systems transformation.

“The speed we are currently using means that if we don’t do things differently, in 2050, Africa will be the hungriest and the poorest continent. I don’t know whether Africa needs that or the rest of the world needs that,” she said.

“You all are spending so much money to keep people alive. We need to move from keeping people alive to creating jobs for people. And advancing development on the African continent. So that we can be an equal player,” she added.

Dr. Kalibata called for more action to promote intra-Africa trade through the elimination of trade barriers and taking advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

She told the session AGRA has been working to help countries on the African continent develop food systems transformation plans so partners that intend to invest in agriculture, know where to begin.

She says investments in Africa’s agricultural sector that prioritises private sector involvement will eventually pay off.

“We have 20 to 25 countries that between them need $10b to transform their food systems… If we don’t do it, we will spend 2.5 times as much. We are already spending a lot on social protection in Africa. We need to start tilting the banner towards more investments so there is an end in sight,” she said.

Chief Executive Officer of the Pan-African Farmers Organisation Babafemi Oyewole told the meeting farmers are still struggling to get support from partners to help Africa achieve SDG 1 on no poverty and SDG 2 on zero hunger.

“We need to help farmers overcome poverty and food insecurity. We need to help farmers overcome the challenges of climate change,” he said.

Mr. Oyewole called for support for initiatives that educate farmers and the populace on SDGs. “A study was done in Ghana that showed farmers who were aware of SGD 2 were more food secure… We need to support farmer organisations and build their capacities to understand the SGDs,” he said.

Other speakers at the session included Qu Dongyu, FAO Director-General; Michael Martin, Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland; Cindy H. McCain, World Food Program Executive Director; Mr. Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Senior Managing Director; Mariam Almheiri, United Arab Emirates Minister for Climate Change and Environment, and Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, African Union Commissioner, among others.