African youth urged to take up leadership in food production systems

Dr Agnes Kalibata, President, AGRA. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Farmers in Africa have been challenged to engage widely and share information to address challenges facing food production and make the sector more profitable.

The youth and women have also been urged to take up leadership in agriculture and find solutions to challenges facing farmers in the continent. This call was made during a two-day forum of renowned and emerging food systems leaders from Africa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last week.

The meeting explored inclusive strategies to tackle the most pressing food systems challenges facing the continent. Under the theme: "Food Systems Leadership in Africa: An Inclusive Approach."

The forum was organised by the Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA), an AGRA-led initiative, and brought together over 200 agriculture leaders.

AGRA President Agnes Kalibata underscored the pressing need for immediate action to revolutionise African food systems. She said time for rhetoric had passed, hence concrete actions to spark transformation.

She challenged the delegates to seize the moment and be catalysts for impactful change. "It's now time to stop talking and move into doing and implementing to realise food systems transformation in Africa," Dr Kalibata said.

AGRA Vice-President for Policy and State Capability Apollos Nwafor highlighted Africa's demographic dividend - a vast youthful population - as an immense growth opportunity.

He said fostering inclusion is not only about political decision-making but actively engaging the youth to shape Africa's future.

"Over 70 per cent of the African labour force is in agriculture. Agriculture is a key driver for realising Africa's GDP ambitions of being the second largest economy by 2063," said Dr Nwafor.

This year's fifth edition of the leadership forum marked a significant milestone for the third cohort of 40 delegates, attending their inaugural leadership forum.

The delegates represent the continent's most dynamic leaders in agriculture and a continuation of CALA's mission to support transformation in food systems.

The leaders were drawn from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Malawi and Nigeria. The first cohort graduated in 2022.

"CALA's programmes focus on enhancing leaders' collaborative styles and providing them with requisite skills to effectively lead oneself, others, organisations and food systems transformation," said Rebecca Harrison, CEO of African Management Institute (AMI).

Dr Kalibata said it is time to enact local solutions to challenges facing African farmers. "About 90 per cent of fertilisers come from outside the continent. And when challenges happen outside, Africa suffers because we don't have the ability to produce fertilisers. We should challenge ourselves to think through how we can be part of that market," she added.

She said making farming more productive is Africa's most important goal now.

"I grew up on a farm. The most important thing for a farmer is to be able to send their kids to school, never mind feeding them. When we take away that ability, we are impacting the core of the African continent and that's what climate change is doing to us. So we must care about what is happening in COP28 at the end of this year in Dubai," she said.

Dr Edward Mabaya from the Institute of African Development challenged Africa to address gender parity and inclusivity to get food security plans on the right track.