Tinashe Kapuya, Vine Mutyasira and Wandile Sihlobo

Africa must invest more in decentralised and diverse food systems infrastructure to provide healthy and affordable diets for all. Despite the efforts made through the “Feed Africa” initiatives, the large investment and financing gap in agriculture still requires significant private sector and development partner contributions.

In January 2023, 34 African Heads of State and Government, heads of International and Bilateral Development Organizations, and private sector leaders met in Dakar, Senegal, to present and discuss “Country Food and Agriculture Delivery Compacts.” These compacts are presentations prepared by African countries to articulate the vision, challenges, and opportunities in agricultural productivity infrastructure, processing, value addition, markets, and financing that will accelerate the implementation of the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

The compacts aim to tap into the planned investment of $10 billion by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and a further $20 billion by several other partners to guide strategic investment areas that can catalyse the sector’s transformation. The Summit adopted the Dakar II Declaration, which outlines six key commitments. These include the development of Country Food and Agriculture Delivery Compacts, the establishment of Presidential Delivery Councils, the creation of a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, mobilising internal and external financing, as well as increasing financing from national budgets. As a final commitment, members resolved to request that the AU Commission and the AfDB follow up with various development partners to finalise their planned financial support.

It is concerning that one-third of the world’s 828 million hungry people reside in Africa, which has the highest prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity. Although Africa accounts for a considerable part of the global increase in food insecurity, it has immense but underutilised agricultural potential. The compacts are expected to trigger the inclusive transformation of food and agricultural systems by outlining projects and programs, value chain-specific and cross-cutting viable, high-return investments.

If the six commitments mentioned above are diligently implemented, the Dakar II Declaration could set the continent on a path to food security. It could also become the catalytic intervention that could facilitate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The focus of the Dakar II Declaration on investment and food systems transformation comes at a critical juncture where both opportunities and threats converge, presenting the right time to act.

However, the food system continues to experience new and continuing global shocks whose impact invariably has knock-on effects on food prices, hunger and poverty. Africa’s productive capacity and potential remain untapped. If the continent is to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger, it must become food secure.

The Dakar II Declaration is a monumental and significant event that reflects the political will and commitment to transform food systems in Africa. The compacts provide a strategic approach to addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture systems. Still, implementing these commitments requires collaboration between local stakeholders, development partners, and the private sector.

Governments must focus on cross-cutting investments that can facilitate and unlock the returns of value chain-specific investments. By working together, Africa can redouble its efforts to achieve inclusive agricultural transformation and create additional market and operational capacity for supply chains, which is key to driving food systems transformation and delivering healthy and affordable diets for all.