ADDIS ABABA – Meeting Africa’s overlapping challenges and realizing its enormous potential both require extraordinary efforts and new ways of working together, said an official of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Africa regional conference, FAO’s highest governing body in Africa, begins its session in Equatorial Guinea’s capital today as the continent’s plan of ending hunger by 2025 faces a confluence of obstacles.
Top agriculture and other ministries from over 50 African countries, who are attending the ministerial meeting along with representatives of the CSOs and the private sector, are expected to define regional priorities for agri-food systems transformation on the continent.
“Like the tall Ceiba tree on the flag of Equatorial Guinea, we too must stand tall in facing Africa’s many complex challenges,” said FAO’s Director-General QU Dongyu in his opening remarks at the ministerial meeting.
Food insecurity grip
According to FAO, the number of people going hungry in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the rise again after years of decline due to various factors.
On top of the climate crisis, it says conflicts and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third year, a severe drought is tightening its grip on East Africa.
The Russia/Ukraine crisis is also severely limiting the supply of wheat to Egypt and nearby countries, pushing up bread prices in the north of the continent.
Acute food insecurity in West Africa almost quadrupled between 2019 and 2022 – jumping from 10.8 million people in 2019 to 40.7 million people in 2022.
Over one-fifth of the African population, or 282 million people, don’t have enough food, representing a rise of 46 million from 2019, says FAO whose top official says need collaborative effort to respond to the unprecedented challenges.
Collaborative Response Needed
The Director-General highlighted the desert locust control operations in eastern Africa as an example of “quick and effective” action on the ground, together with partners of governments in the sub-region.
“Africa has great potential for change and prosperity due to its rich natural resources and its large pool of innovative young people,” Qu told the ministers attending the meeting in Malabo.
“You are here today as key leaders to drive this change,” he continued, “Let us be tall and strong like the ceiba tree, and continue to work together efficiently, effectively and coherently, and in a more innovative way for The Africa We Want!”
FAO Director General QU Dongyu speaking at the Inaugural ceremony of the 32nd Session of the Regional Conference for Africa (ARC32) on April 13, 2022 in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo. [Photo FAO]