The Seventh African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from September 4 to 8 as a premier platform for global and African leaders to develop actionable plans to move African agriculture forward. Abimbola Akosile unveils the decisions and commitments from the Forum
Call it agriculture on the go; call it agrarian week, but for five days in the first week of September, the issue of agriculture in Africa was firmly put on the front-burner in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire.
The Seventh African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was hosted by President Alassane Ouattara, a continental champion of inclusive agricultural transformation, and his team of senior government officials, including Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan; Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, and several other key cabinet members.
The other co-¬hosts were the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the 15 members of the AGRF Partners Group.
Additional resource and technical partnership was provided to the forum by another 10 partners who supported the cost of the forum and its sessions and content, according to the Abidjan communiqué, which contained 25 points.
The forum was attended by as many as 1,300 delegates and high level dignitaries, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; Prime Minister of Togo and Representative of President Faure Gnassingbe, Komi Selom Klassou; former President of Ghana, John Kufuor; former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete.
Other dignitaries included the President of ECOWAS, the African Union Commissioner for the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, eight ministers of agriculture and finance, business leaders, financial institutions, private agribusiness firms, farmers, NGOs, civil society, media, scientists, development partners, technical partners, and the next generation of African agripreneurs and leaders.
The theme of this year’s forum was ‘Accelerating the Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture.’
This served as the guiding framework for a total of 52 sessions and more than 300 speakers around related topics, particularly youth employment, women in agribusiness, strengthening access to inputs, market access, financial inclusion, the enabling policy environment, and other critical barriers to value chain development and unlocking private sector investment.
The forum was closely aligned with and built heavily upon key global and continental gatherings earlier in the year, including the African Development Bank Annual Meeting, the African Union Summit, the CAADP Partnership Platform Meeting, and the G20 and G7 Summits that have all focused heavily on the creation of jobs for the youth and driving rural development and prosperity through agriculture.
The 2017 African Agriculture Status Report (AASR), entitled The Business of Smallholder Agriculture, once again served to provide a technical foundation and set of key findings and recommendations for the forum.
The report acknowledged the importance of governments working with the free market to drive Africa’s economic growth from food production. It also emphasised the need to substitute imports with high value food made in Africa for a market forecast to be worth more than $1 trillion a year by 2030.
The AGRF 2017 looked at how governments, businesses, and other partners are delivering on the political, policy and financial commitments worth over $30 billion made at the AGRF 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya and the impact this is having on the lives and incomes of farmers and agribusinesses.
The forum benefitted from a series of six thematic working groups driven by the AGRF Partners throughout the year. These included youth, women, inputs, markets, mechanisation, and finance. Results of the year-¬long engagement included the launch of a toolkit on blended finance released at the forum, strengthened stakeholder communities for the youth and women working groups.
The forum highlighted considerable progress over the last 12 months against the AGRF 2016 multi¬-year commitments guided by the nine priority action points contained in the Nairobi communiqué.
The African Union, NEPAD, and countries noted that seven countries have initiated the process of refreshing their investment plans to unlock 10 per cent of public expenditure in agriculture to leverage significant additional resources from the private sector and development partners.
Private sector partners made investments, including OCP’s $2.4 billion fertiliser plant in Ethiopia, with further plants planned in Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria.
KCB working with the MasterCard Foundation launched a $30 million partnership to promote financial inclusion for at least two million smallholder farmers in Kenya and Rwanda.
Partners such as the African Development Bank, the Mastercard Foundation, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) advanced innovating financing mechanisms to develop SMEs and increase finance for the continents smallholder farmers. This included work on the Smallholder Agriculture Investment and Finance Network, SAFIN.
Many countries are making progress in developing updated national agricultural strategies and investment plans aligned with expectations under the Malabo declaration. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has provided support to a number of countries in the course of the last year, including Kenya, Ghana and the AGRF host country of Cote d’Ivoire.
These and other countries are making progress in identifying and unlocking policy and regulatory bottlenecks critical to boosting agriculture sector growth. In Ethiopia, progress has been made on regulatory updates to enable contract farming, in the removal of a cereal export ban, and reduce restrictions around agricultural inputs and machinery.
In Ghana, the government moved to strengthen the import distribution and subsidy systems. Malawi launched a fertiliser policy regulating fertiliser distribution. Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria strengthened their legal systems to enable private sector involvement in the seed and fertiliser sectors.
Significant progress has been made towards the completion of the first CAADP biennial review process, which the African Union and NEPAD are leading with countries and Regional Economic Communities in preparation for the African Union Summit in January 2018.
Up to 30 countries have submitted their biennial review reports to date, and the process is on track to deliver the commitment of a one-¬page scorecard for Heads of State.
Also, a first ministerial roundtable and dialogue was held at the 2017 Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition (GODAN) meeting hosted by Kenya, where ministers reviewed the progress they are each making in the development of data. The meeting resolved to establish an African inter-governmental network on Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition.
Progress was exemplified by stakeholders across the agricultural community, including ongoing leadership by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who remain among the key leaders of inclusive agricultural transformation on the continent and took measures such as allocating $32 million to the Uwezo Fund and the Youth and Women Enterprise Fund.
Across all of this progress, partners noted that in order to achieve agricultural transformation, new models and new ways of doing business are required.
The AGRA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a new partnership of up to $280 million to increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder households in 11 countries by 2021.
The Farm to Market Alliance, a partnership of Syngenta Foundation, RaboBank, WFP, AGRA, YARA and Bayer that aims to enhance access for smallholder farmers, expanded to draw in more partners, including Intervalle.
The AGRF Partners Group agreed to continue tracking progress against its multi–year action items, as a key instrument for mobilising additional partners and commitments, and ensuring accountability.
This year’s forum featured new types of partnership agreements providing innovative ways of doing business. A number of new partnerships were established as vehicles for resource mobilisation and co-¬ordination. These were contained in a number of MoUs covering areas such as increasing the productivity of maize smallholder farmers; building export capacity of agricultural enterprises; strengthening post-¬harvest management and increasing financial inclusion.
Most notably, a new MoU was signed between the AGRF host country, Cote d’Ivoire and the AGRA to facilitate the setting up of an AGRA office in the country to support the country and the Francophone West African region attain its agricultural transformation targets.
The forum set the narrative for inclusive agricultural transformation that involves millions of smallholder farmers, but which goes beyond the farm to include SMEs and agri-¬businesses in the entire food value chain.
Heads of State and other government leaders present made new commitments to sustain their economic and agricultural transformation drive.
President Ouatarra stated his government’s commitment to increase its budgetary allocation to agriculture to 10 per cent of GDP, of which $200 million has already been provided to cocoa and coffee farmers. He also committed to comply with actions of regional organisations in favour of agricultural development with the aim of feeding its population and becoming, ultimately, a net exporter of food.
Also, Prime Minister Klassou of Togo emphasised the need to work with other Heads of State to achieve policies that are coherent and that support smallholders in organising into cooperatives for ease of access to finance. He called for stronger partnerships between the public and private sectors to play a key role in the development of Africa’s agribusinesses.
President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia stressed the value of working with the private sector to double the yields of rice farmers by improving their access to inputs to enable them to transition to low land irrigated rice production.
Minister of Agriculture, Ghana, Dr. Owusu Akoto, who represented President Nana Akufo-¬Addo of Ghana, expressed his country’s renewed support for the ‘Planting for food and jobs’ programme, with a pilot targeting 200,000 of the country’s five million farmers and fishermen in the first year. This five year project will improve productivity through improved seeds, fertilisers, market support and e-¬agriculture.
Other commitments were made by the following institutions representing the private sector and the development partners:
The EU has signed a new European Consensus for Development initiative with a value of around $1.5 billion. This adds to its existing blended finance facilities for Africa and the neighbouring region with an estimated budget of $2.6 billion to leverage more than $44 billion of investment in Africa until 2020.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) expressed its commitment to African development with agriculture as a key driver. Under Germany’s presidency, the G20 this year launched an initiative on rural youth employment with a focus on job creation for young people.
This is contained in the Berlin Charter that has been adopted by civil society, the private sector and science community. It also reaffirmed its commitment to the One World No Hunger initiative with €1.5 billion per year invested in agriculture. Its Marshall Plan with Africa will guide the corporation and development of initiatives between Africa and Germany.
Yara, the global fertiliser company, has dedicated more than $100 million in downstream operations and $130 million to develop a mine in Ethiopia. Yara is also part of the Farm to Market Alliance, but noted that investment could increase further with continued improvements in the enabling environment.
The Rockefeller Foundation committed $130 million over seven years to improve working practices with partners across the private and public sectors, technology manufacturers and financiers.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has built on its $350 million investment in Africa, with $250m going to agriculture, through a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, and the USAID for a new $250 million commitment to AGRA as a leading pan-¬African institution that works with multiple players and governments to increase the incomes and food security of millions of smallholder households.
The African Union has committed to the creation of a CAADP-¬Malabo business plan to create a tool to implement the seven goals. Close to $6.5 billion worth of investments in palm oil, pulses, potato and rice -¬ mainly in West Africa – over the next eight years, were made.
The rice value chain received significant boost in investments including a crowd funding facility to support 10,000 farmers and SMEs with loans of $100 – $10,000 within the next 18 months, plans to establish the West African Regional Rice Task Force to unlock $470 million to achieve rice self-sufficiency.
According to the Abidjan communiqué, $500 million infrastructure investment deal is also under development to improve access to farms and markets.
Maslaha Seed Limited and Sygenta committed a $1 million investment in increased rice seed production while the expansion of the Farm to Market Alliance to include of Intervalle will increase rice marketing in West Africa.
Black Pace Nigeria committed to invest $103 million in Nigeria and to invest another $120 million for potato processing in Rwanda while Kenya’s Agricultural Finance Corporation committed to invest $2 million lending to potato farmers.
ITC committed to develop and launch a free palm oil market intelligence and information app, while $4 billion will be invested in the palm oil sector by 2025.
Mahindra Agribusiness committed to buy all green grams produced in Africa including the setting up of a processing plant with a crushing capacity of 40,000 metric tonnes in Ethiopia.
Also, a high-¬level ministerial roundtable agreed on a collaborative deal to accelerate agricultural growth in the continent, adopting a framework to ensure that all countries on the continent grow in unison, and an accountability tool that will track the delivery on the pledges made by participating countries in the current and previous fora.
The ministers committed to, among other things: Strengthen their coordination to ensure accountability against pledges, commitments and plans made, especially within the framework of a continental scorecard.
They also committed to re-¬orient their relationship with the donors from one of a donor-¬recipient to that of investment partners that deliver mutual value and benefits, especially to the African smallholder farmers; to strengthen their leadership and continue building an environment that attracts private sector investments.
Other contributions came from a variety of stakeholders, all focused on how to improve smallholder agriculture to achieve improvements in income and food security and in creation of decent jobs. The youth present at the forum underlined their commitment to drive and seize the opportunities in agri-¬businesses.
Women in Agriculture featured prominently throughout the forum, including through a dinner that was keynoted by Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan of Cote d’Ivoire during which commitments were made towards ending malnutrition and hunger, as well as creating opportunities for women. During the event, it was unanimously agreed that investments made for projects led by women and youth were critical for the overall attainment of the agriculture development goals.
The forum also provided a premier platform to highlight the success of individuals and institutions driving significant progress across the continent for agricultural transformation and food security.
Under the leadership of General Obasanjo (rtd.) and the Africa Food Prize Committee – and witnessed by Heads of State and Government present – the 2017 Africa Food Prize was awarded to two individuals who have made outstanding individual contributions to African agriculture and are forging a new era of sustainable food security and economic opportunity that elevates all Africans:
The first winner was Prof. Ruth Khasaya Oniang’o, for her pioneering leadership in academia, research, and policy to improve food security and nutrition for millions in Africa; and for her groundbreaking work, with farmers’ groups and rural communities, that connects agriculture and nutrition both in research and practice.
The second winner was Mme. Coulibaly Maimouna Sidibe, for her illustrative business success in producing, packaging, and distributing improved and high–yielding seeds that have significantly improved the food security and incomes of smallholder farmers throughout Mali and West Africa; and for her inspiring combination of world-¬class business practices and sound technical skills exemplifying the best of Africa’s agri-¬business sector.
Recognising the importance of youth in driving the future of agriculture across the continent, the forum also recognised the winners of a Pitch Agrihack competition that honours outstanding youth e-¬agriculture start-¬ups.
Projects from Nigeria and Ghana were announced as winners in the early stage category and youth from Senegal and Ghana feted in the advanced stage category.
Following the presentations and discussions at AGRF 2017, key actions were identified for immediate execution, to lead the path to Africa’s prosperity through agriculture
Heads of State and regional institutions led by the African Union Commission and NEPAD Agency reaffirmed their commitment to driving the CAADP biennial review process and implementing the scorecard on agricultural transformation for tracking progress in realising the aims of the Malabo Declaration.
The Heads of State and Government present further committed to honour all financial, policy and political commitments made during this forum and in other past meetings.
The actions taken over the next four months until the January 2018 AU Summit will be critical to delivering on this agenda and contributing to the achievement of the goals laid out in the Malabo Declaration. The AGRF partners intend to build on the momentum established at AGRF 2017 by developing a work plan that will tie together the most important moments and forums of the African agriculture community to secure further support for the biennial review process.
The AGRF 2017 closed under the leadership of Prime Minister Coulibaly of Cote d’Ivoire and with the participation of the AGRF Partners Group. All partners thanked the Government of Cote d’Ivoire for its leadership of the continental forum, and the partners noted a location for the next AGRF will be chosen before the end of the year through discussions with governments that step forward as the next leaders.