Public-private approach is critical to address Africa's food security

The success of agricultural systems depends on a combination of factors, including technology, public support, and private sector involvement.

Technological advancements have significantly improved food production and productivity over the years. Access to improved seeds and soil nutrition, along with other resources like water and mechanisation, are essential for enhancing agricultural output.

However, for these technologies to be accessible, a functional 'public commons' backbone is crucial. This includes extension services, viable market ecosystems, and infrastructure that must be provided by the public sector.

Countries that have successfully invested in agriculture, with strong public support and a thriving private sector, have seen significant improvements in food security and economic growth. Examples such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria demonstrate the positive impact of directing state spending towards agriculture.

These countries have witnessed reduced poverty rates and increased agricultural productivity, thanks to investments in seeds, fertilisers, extension services, and market access.

The recent crises, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, have highlighted the vulnerability of global supply chains and the need for Africa to strengthen its food systems. Africa currently imports $50 billion (Sh7 trillion) worth of food annually, which could be produced locally.

By enhancing intra-African trade and investing in agriculture, the continent can become more self-reliant and resilient to shocks.

Soils are a fundamental component of sustainable agriculture, and long-term investments are needed to improve fertility and structure. Secure land tenure plays a vital role in providing incentives for farmers to invest in soil conservation and regeneration. Clear land ownership allows farmers to make long-term investments in soil health, preventing erosion and degradation.

In terms of international cooperation, Africa-Europe partnerships should focus on equitable trade rather than charity. Europe can become a significant market for African agricultural products, contributing to poverty reduction and job creation. Trade relations should be based on mutual benefit and comparative advantage.

The UN Food System Summit has been an essential platform to address food system challenges and reduce emissions in the agriculture sector. Africa's progress towards resilience-building and food system transformation should be showcased, providing examples for other countries to follow.

The upcoming COP28 in Egypt should prioritise both mitigation and adaptation strategies, recognising the impact of climate change on food systems.

Regarding the debate between high external input-based agriculture and agro-ecological approaches, context matters. African farmers require access to appropriate technologies, including hybrid seeds and fertilisers, to address local challenges such as pests and degraded soils.

While promoting organic agriculture is essential, it cannot be the sole solution for feeding Africa. A balanced approach that considers the region's needs and environmental impact is necessary.

AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) has also moved from a focus on green revolution to a much broader approach to support sustainable food systems. We are also re-naming AGRA to recognise that the green revolution was yesterday. Looking forward, we must transform our food systems, for people’s food, health, and the environment.

Addressing food security requires a multi-pronged public-private approach. Access to technology, supported by a functional public common, and a thriving private sector are crucial for enhancing agricultural productivity.

Africa should invest in its agricultural sector, improve land tenure, and strengthen international partnerships to build resilient food systems that contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction.

The writer is the president of AGRA