To Many Africans, Hunger is Greater Threat than COVID-19, AfDB Chief Says

242 views | Akanimo Sampson | March 12, 2021

To build resilience in Africa, African Development Bank (AfDB) says strengthening food systems must be an integral part of efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bank’s Director General for Southern Africa, Leila Mokaddem, who said this in a session on sustainable food systems at the Southern Africa Impact Forum on March 9, explains that hunger is a greater threat to many Africans than the COVID-19 crisis.

“Africa must now urgently strengthen its food systems as an integral part of efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and to build resilience”, she said.

University of Pretoria Vice-Chancellor, Tawana Kupe, notes, “when they function well, food systems have the power to bring us together as families, communities and nations. But too many of the world’s food systems are fragile and vulnerable to collapse.”

Mokaddem outlined four areas in which the Bank is working in partnerships to drive the food sector’s transformation: sustainably intensify the production of safe and nutritious food to meet demand; careful management of land, soils, and water; increasing the contribution of local food producers and suppliers and reduction of post-harvest losses; and harnessing digital technologies to develop and drive food systems transformation.

“The African Development Bank is championing the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), a major continent-wide initiative designed to boost agricultural productivity across the continent by rapidly delivering proven technologies to millions of farmers,” she added.

Other initiatives that underscore the Bank’s leadership role in the sector are its financing of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones to concentrate agro-processing activities within areas of high agricultural potential, as well as the promotion of climate-smart agriculture.

Removing barriers to agricultural development could spur a jump in Africa’s agricultural output from an annual $280 billion to $1 trillion by 2030, Mokaddem said at the virtual event, where she represented Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.

 “AfDB is committed, in partnership with key stakeholders to supporting agricultural transformation and calls on governments, Multilateral Development Banks and other development partners to support a technology development and delivery mechanism required to achieve the transformation of African agriculture,” Mokaddem said.

The session included a break-out session for a series of dialogues that are part of the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit that is expected to be held in September or October 2021. Introducing the discussions, The World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy for COVID-19, David Nabarro, said:

“We are seeking to transform food systems so they can be more sustainable and equitable, and it’s a transformation that will contribute to all of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), and absolutely key to dealing with the other major crises in our world at this time.”

The Southern Africa Impact Forum on sustainable development, held March 9-10, is hosted by Times Higher Education and the University of Pretoria. Participants included academics and representatives of the private sector, civil society and international agencies.

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