The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)/ African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) brought together private sector partners, economists and business leaders to identify these risks and gaps in response efforts while proposing solutions.
Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, welcomed over 565 participants.
“The concerns COVID-19 poses to public health cannot be separated from the food security concerns. Hence, it is important to prioritize protection of the food supply chain and livelihoods as an integral component of the response to the crisis,” he said.
Ensuring trade to prevent a crisis within a crisis
In his keynote presentation, FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero stated that there is not a shortage of agricultural commodities across the world but rather a bottleneck of access and logistics to reach consumers. He also identified the building of buffer stocks by countries as a loss of valuable resources as supply is abundant and prices are dropping. He suggested that countries focus instead on ensuring global and particularly intra-regional trade remain vibrant while ensuring all health and safety protocols to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Ziad Hamoui, Ghana National President of Borderless Alliance, highlighted that this is an opportunity to remove non-tariff barriers. “We need to eliminate non-tariff barriers to promote the movement of essential items within Africa,” he said. He added that this can be taken as an opportunity to put the tenets of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) into effect.
Amar Ali, CEO of Africa Improved Foods, added that the biggest challenge his company faces is not a lack of supply but rather delays in the supply chain due to border closures and more stringent import/export and transportation regulations. He encouraged governments to keep local and regional supply systems open while ensuring health and safety.
Vanessa Adams, Vice President of AGRA, in her closing remarks urged all the participants to use the crisis as an opportunity to build more resilient food systems and be more inclusive, particularly reaching out to women through better coordination across government ministries, better collaboration among development partners and more effective public and private partnerships.
FAO’s commitment to Africa
Africa and the world have food stocks available to feed communities through this crisis, but it is now incumbent on governments, business leaders and partners to work together to keep the food supply chain alive to prevent worsening food insecurity and undernourishment. FAO is providing governments across the continent with assessment tools, policy advice and real-time data on food prices, import and export volumes, food stocks and other information for them to make the most informed decisions in their COVID-19 responses.