Director-General  QU Dongyu

Greater investments needed to transform African food systems in the face of COVID-19


27 July 2020, Addis Ababa – The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Director-General QU Dongyu today called for sustained and strategic investments to accelerate an agri-food system transformation in Africa in the face of an impending food crisis driven by COVID-19. He was addressing an online tripartite meeting of African Ministers responsible for agriculture, trade and finance - the first meeting of its kind in response to the COVID-19 emergency, convened by the African Union Commission with technical support from FAO. 

“We need to do more, and we can only do more together,” QU said. 

The Director-General welcomed the crosscutting collaboration between the three portfolios, saying the challenges stemming from the pandemic are multi-dimensional, complex and intertwined and require a holistic, comprehensive and coordinated response by multiple stakeholders and partners. 

Some 80 Ministers and other representatives from over 50 countries attended the meeting, as well as representatives from (in alphabetical order) the African Development Bank, the European Commission, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the private sector, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the World Bank, the World Food Programme and other partners. 

COVID-19 cases, hunger, rising in Africa

Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 54 African countries. Across the continent, more than 850,000 cases have been recorded, and more than 17,000 deaths. 

The recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report found that hunger is also on the rise in Africa, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Director-General QU told participants that several African countries are on the frontline of an impending hunger crisis driven by COVID-19. In these hotspot countries, high levels of food insecurity and acute hunger were stark realities even before COVID-19 because of overlapping shocks including transboundary pests and diseases, conflicts, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods.  

Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, chaired the meeting and said COVID-19 could wipe out any gains made towards achieving the African Union’s Malabo Declaration Goal of ending hunger by 2025, and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

QU said the solution lies in taking bold actions through pursuing radically changed approaches to transforming food systems, making healthy diets affordable and driving progress towards ending poverty, hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

FAO’s response to the crisis

FAO is at the forefront of addressing the food security and nutrition challenges posed by COVID-19, guided by seven priority areas: safeguarding livelihoods; encouraging economic inclusion and social protection; boosting smallholder resilience; preventing the next zoonotic pandemic; supporting trade and food safety standards; transforming food systems along the whole value chain; and supporting big data for decision making. 

“Through the Hand-in-Hand initiative, we are facilitating innovative platforms for impactful results towards fighting hunger and poverty through harnessing the power of data, science, technical analysis and mobilizing multi-stakeholder partnerships and resources from public and private sectors,” the Director-General said.

Today’s meeting adopted a joint declaration further strengthening a declaration by African Agriculture Ministers in April to support food security in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and the joint Taskforce established to implement the April declaration.