Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Joint Meeting of African Ministers responsible for Agriculture, Trade and Finance:

Building Resilient Food Systems through Agricultural Trade and Investments to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security in Africa

27 July 2020

Opening Remarks by Dr. QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General 

As prepared



His Excellency Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

The Honourable Ministers for Agriculture, Trade and Finance of Africa

Her Excellency Josepha Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission

Distinguished Executive Heads of Regional Economic Communities

Distinguished Ambassadors to the African Union and Permanent Representatives to FAO

Distinguished Representatives of Partner Organizations


Ladies and Gentlemen, 

1. I am pleased to see such a joint platform convened to facilitate constructive and informed dialogue among policy leaders of key sectors to impact transformation in food, agriculture and rural development systems.

2. Today, the African Continent is a global pioneer concretely demonstrating, during this difficult time as the world moves towards the post COVID-19 recovery phase, the absolute necessity for these three sectors to work together in order to address the impacts of this pandemic, as it transforms from a health crisis to an economic and food security emergency.  

3. Ministers responsible for Agriculture, for Trade and for Finance coming together to interact and jointly put a stamp on much needed strategic actions is exactly what we need now. 

4. I would therefore like to thank the African Union Commission for having made this happen, and above all, the Honourable Ministers for their commitment. 

5. As I said, you are setting the lead on the crosscutting collaboration that is needed in order to build back better together.

6. Three months ago on 16 April, I joined the African Ministers for Agriculture to deliberate on strategic actions in response to the impacts of COVID-19 to food supply systems and livelihoods. 

7. The Declaration that the Ministers adopted then was instrumental in stepping up the much needed advocacy efforts and in identifying key areas for actions. 

8. I am encouraged to see that over the last few months much has been done in Africa to assess the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to formulate response measures and take concrete actions on the ground. 

9. These efforts must continue to be sustained and supported.  

10. We need to do more, and we can only do more together. We need our partners if we are to succeed in overcoming the impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition in Africa. 

11. On 13 July, FAO launched the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report”, which reveals that hunger is still on the rise in Africa, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a healthy diet is still an unreachable goal for hundreds of millions of Africans. 

12. Projections outlined in the Report suggest that COVID-19 could add several million people to the ranks of the food insecure and undernourished. 

13. A more recent analysis published by FAO and WFP identifies several African countries that are on the frontline of impending COVID-19 driven food crises, as the pandemic's knock-on effects aggravate pre-existing drivers of hunger. 

14. These "hotspot countries" are facing high risk of significant food security deteriorations in the coming months, including rising numbers of people pushed into acute hunger.

15. For most of these countries, high levels of food insecurity and acute hunger were stark realities even before COVID-19, because of the prevalent overlapping shocks and stressors such as transboundary pests and diseases, climate extremes, conflicts, among others.  

16. For example, while the fight against the Desert Locust is still ongoing in Eastern Africa, we need to remain vigilant and prepare for a potential upsurge in the Sahel and West Africa. Southern African countries are also facing the increased threat of African Migratory Locust and Red Locust. 

17. The impact of COVID-19 is also likely to push millions more into extreme poverty. It has the capacity of wiping out any modest gains made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and Agenda 2063. 

18. The future outlook is quite grim with a major global economic recession looming on the horizon.

19. The challenges are multi-dimensional, complex and intertwined, requiring a holistic, comprehensive and coordinated response by multiple stakeholders and partners. 

20. Today’s Joint Meeting of Ministers for Agriculture, Trade and Finance, provides an excellent platform to facilitate and guide a holistic and coordinated approach and action. 

21. The agenda for agri-food transformation is a large and shared agenda; it must be co-owned and supported across all relevant sectors and by all stakeholders. 

22. As Africa embarks on operationalizing the Continental Free Trade Area, huge opportunities are bound to emerge for boosting trade and investment in agriculture and food products; to create and expand markets and job opportunities, in particular for the youth and women; and to enhance sustainable productivity and competitiveness of the agri-food systems, among others. 

23. Enhanced productivity and competitiveness of transformed agri-food systems is the only path towards food security through improved nutrition and healthy diets that are affordable and sustainable for the majority of the population in Africa, and in the world.

24. However, all of this cannot happen without deliberate, sustained and strategic investments.

25. The reason why countries should prioritize food and agriculture in policy and investment decisions should not be driven primarily by humanitarian concerns, even though these are necessary. 

26. Rather, pursuing agriculture and food based trade and investment should make a strong business case for Africa – measured in terms of social, economic, environmental and even political and security parameters. 

27. The cost of inaction, or even sluggishness, is simply too high.

28. Opportunities for accelerated, scaled-up and impactful agri-food system transformation are available. 

29. Innovation and digitalization have created immense possibilities to make desired changes happen - fast and big. 

30. There is no reason why African farmers, rural producers and agribusiness operators cannot benefit from this revolution.

31. FAO is at the forefront of addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19: from the food security, nutrition and resilient food systems perspective, through a comprehensive and holistic approach for recovery and building back better. 

32. In this respect, seven major priority areas have been identified to guide FAO’s work. These include: (1) addressing the impacts of COVID-19 and safeguarding livelihoods in food crisis contexts; (2) Economic inclusion and Social Protection to Reduce Poverty: (3) Boosting smallholder resilience for recovery; (4) Preventing the next zoonotic pandemic; (5) Trade, including Intra-regional trade, and Food Safety Standards; (6) Food systems transformation along the whole value chain and (7) Data for Decision Making. 

33. 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. 

34. I am glad to note progress being made in this respect as many African countries, such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali and Zimbabwe are embracing the initiative. 

35. In closing, let me reiterate the important point that we need to take bold actions, through pursuing radically changed approaches to transforming food systems, making healthy diets affordable and driving progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty and hunger and all forms of malnutrition.  

I thank you for your attention and wish you a successful meeting.