The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), the continent’s most influential gathering around Africa’s largest economic sector, concluded Saturday in Kigali, with ambitious commitments to deliver billions of dollars in new investments to African farms and agribusinesses.
The forum also committed to triple agriculture trade between African countries, and forge new partnerships with a cast of development partners including China, India, Brazil, and Israel.
The meeting also featured the launch of an aggressive new consortium to defeat the invasion of the fall armyworm now threatening up to US $6 billion of damage to African maize, sorghum and other critical food crops.
In addition, a new multi-billion dollar irrigation initiative could bring a new level of stability to Africa’s rain-fed farming regions.
The forum attracted 2800 delegates from around the world.
It’s theme of ‘Lead, ‘Measure, Grow’ highlighted the critical importance of political leadership and rigorous, honest assessments of progress in the agriculture sector for achieving growth that can spread across the entire economy.
“The aspirations for African agriculture are extremely high across the continent, and progress as usual is not enough to achieve them,” said Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA.
“Partners from across the region and around the world are becoming equally ambitious with their commitments and then demonstrating their ability to follow through,” she added.
A crucial goal for AGRF 2018 was to secure greater investments for African farmers and agriculture businesses. And the community rose to the challenge.
Meanwhile, a coalition that included the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Union, the Government of Luxembourg, and AGRA laid plans for an ambitious alliance that has the potential to consolidate tens of millions of dollars in new investments for commercial agriculture ventures in Africa, with a strong focus on attracting youth.
Also, IFAD’s President, Gilbert Houngbo, said IFAD anticipates delivering a total of $3.5 billion in new investments over the next few years, half of which will flow to Africa.
In addition, officials from the African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) detailed the launch of the US $50 million investing in Women fund that already has secured a $6.42 million dollar commitment from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman, ECONET Group, and chair of the AGRF Partners Group, said that starting with the 2016 AGRF in Nairobi, commitments to transforming Africa’s poorly performing farmers into poverty fighting powerhouses now tops US $60 billion.
“There is something going on out there and our young people are beginning to turn their heads and see the possibilities in agriculture,” he said. “They are beginning to realise that we can’t have a paradox where the average age (of the population) is 19 years but for our farmers it is approaching 60.”
New energy around agriculture trade
Trade emerged as an area that could supercharge the sector. The recent establishment of Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), the largest free trade pact since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), animated discussions around the potential for reforms—documented at the meeting with the launch of the new African Agricultural Trade Status Monitor—that could triple trade in agriculture commodities between African countries.
“Trade is a driver of growth and we know that when we trade in agriculture, it drives growth from the bottom up,” said Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya, said consolidating the CFTA will give African countries the “platform and the muscle” they need to negotiate as equals with trade blocs like the European Union. But he also wants to see African countries focusing more attention on the neglected opportunities with their neighbors next door.
“Why struggle to access the markets in Europe when we can’t access the market next door,” Ruto said. “We have made it easier to export to Europe than to export to Ghana or Rwanda.”
AGRF 2018 also highlighted new agriculture partnerships emerging with China, Israel, India, and Brazil.
The forum occurred right on the heels of the historic 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing that featured an unprecedented package of agriculture investments and technical assistance programs flowing from China to Africa.
Wu Hongyao of China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs confirmed the new partnerships, noting that they will include major initiatives with ten agriculture universities in Africa and the construction of new agriculture demonstration centers and agriculture-focused industrial parks.
Israel emerged as an increasingly familiar face in African agriculture. At the Forum, a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between AGRA and Israel’s Volcani International Partnerships to pursue a number of initiatives, including an Israeli-Africa Agriculture Innovation Center to be hosted jointly by Volcani and Israel’s Agriculture Research Organization.
At the summit, a new Farmer-led Irrigation for smallholder farming enterprises was announced. The ambitious program will seek to deliver US $9 billion in technologies, public investment, commercial financing, and capacity building, which will enable individual smallholders, as individuals or cooperatives, to afford, own, operate and benefit from irrigation systems.