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How can Africa feed its growing urban population? The answer is on the menu





2020 African Green Revolution Forum: challenges and opportunities of the Green Economy


Rapid urbanization is a key driver of development in Africa. The farming industry accounts for 60% of the continent’s workforce, generates more than 40% of GDP and hundreds of thousands of livelihoods depend on it. Because of this, cities are the largest and fastest growing agricultural markets across the continent, with between $200 billion to $250 billion per year in food sales. More than 80% of such sales come from suppliers in the continent (1).

This presents major opportunities and challenges for African farmers, particularly those running small-scale farms. The Green Economy has long been a key player in Africa’s transformation towards sustainability in the agri-food system.

The Tenth Annual Summit of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) – hosted in Kigali under the leadership of H.E. President Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Rwanda - discussed how best to move African agriculture forward, how to energize political will and advance the policies, programmes and investments required to achieve inclusive and sustainable transformation across the continent.

What has often been described as the world’s premier forum on African agriculture this year the meeting took place in unprecedented circumstances, in a virtual format and at a time of global crisis in which the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening jobs, yields and food security. In fact, we have witnessed distortions in the global agri-food value chain, exacerbating a fragile system that was already vulnerable-to-shock. This year’s edition also came at a time when Africa is faced with several other challenges, including climate change, malnutrition, poverty, the emergence of pests, such as desert locusts and fall armyworms, and now the Coronavirus.

Theme: Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent

The theme of the summit, Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa, is a call to action to rethink our food systems to deliver resilient, better nourished, and more prosperous outcomes for all. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 61 percent of the world population will be living in urban areas by the year 2025. The FAO further states that more than half of the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) population could be living in urban areas by 2050, posing huge challenges for poor towns and cities, which already face issues such as poverty and inequalities.

Key outcomes

The 2020 AGRF Summit is expected to yield the following tangible and concrete outcomes:
  • Markets and Trade – Build inter-connected African markets that create opportunities, starting from rural smallholders to urban supermarkets.
  • Nutritious Food – Stimulate demand for African products that encourage diverse, healthier diets with the safety and quality all consumers need.
  • Food Systems – Define the food systems Africa wants and be part of a multi-stakeholder vision for Africa and the world regarding the future of food, also in view of the UN Food Systems Summit next year.
  • Resilience – Invest in enterprises and innovations to build a more sustainable and inclusive future.

2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report Launched

The “Africa Agriculture Status Report 2020,” launched at the AGRF Summit, highlighted the opportunities, challenges and policies required to enable African farmers and agribusinesses to serve rapidly growing urban food markets.

The report seeks to find ways for smallholder farmers to drive food security, rural prosperity, and inclusive economic growth.

“Africa’s cities are currently the largest and most rapidly growing agricultural markets in the continent. Out of total urban food sales of roughly US$200 to US$250 billion per year, over 80% comes from domestic African suppliers. In the coming decades, demographic projections forecast rates of African urbanization as the highest in the world. Today — and even more so tomorrow — the report highlights the opportunity for all African agriculture industry stakeholders to bring together viewpoints that can define the transformation agenda while outlining the practical next steps towards an agricultural revolution,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, United Nations Special Envoy for Food Systems and President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The report begins by outlining the opportunities offered by Africa’s urban food markets to the continent’s 60 million farms. African cities can play major role in the further development of the agri-business environment by affecting patterns of agricultural production and inducing the rapid expansion of food processing and distribution plans.

“This year’s report shows that as the centre of gravity in Africa’s agri-food systems shifts increasingly towards urban areas, a cohort of new, non-traditional actors – including city planners, mayors, district councils, trade associations and public health professionals – are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy,” said Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy.

While recognizing the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in exacerbating existing economic and social inequalities, the report defines five focus areas in a bid to overcome the problem of urban under-nutrition and accelerate the urgency of urban food system planning.

These focus areas are:

  • improved urban food system governance;
  • efficient urban wholesale markets;
  • food safety regulation and enforcement;
  • regional free trade and agricultural policy harmonization;
  • agricultural research focused on high-growth, high-value food commodities. 

Domestic food distribution systems, intra-African trade and food safety are the other issue in the report that lead to the conclusion that improved urban food system governance and performance can create new opportunities for Africa to transform its agricultural efforts into thriving businesses.

2020 Africa Food Prize: rewarding excellence in the African scientific research in the agri-food sector

Dr. André Bationo and Dr. Catherine Nakalembe were announced as the winners of the 2020 Africa Food Prize, in recognition of their pioneering efforts to overcome obstacles across the agriculture value chain, including limited access to high-quality agricultural inputs, difficulties in accessing markets as well as the negative impact of climate change.

Dr. André Bationo, a researcher from Burkina Faso, was also recognized for his efforts to improve micro-dosing fertilizer technology. Dr Bationo has also scaled-up an inventory credit system which allows farmers to store grain and receive a credit when prices are low, making it possible for them to sell their grain when prices are higher. The micro-dosing technology and inventory credit systems are already benefitting millions of farmers in West Africa, having spread from the villages in Niger, where Dr Bationo first introduced these innovations, to the wider region.

Dr Catherine Nakalembe, a Ugandan researcher, was honoured for her dedication to improving the lives of smallholder farmers using satellite technology to harness data to guide agricultural decision-making.

Her work in this area has helped prevent potentially disastrous impacts of crop failure. Her relentless efforts have also promoted the formulation of policies and programmes that are directly protecting farmers against the impacts of food failure.

In her acceptance speech, Dr Nakalembe said “I believe that together, we can harness the great potential of our farms to achieve sustainable food systems across the continent”. 


(1)  2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report, AGRA: doc. link

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