FAO hosts African leaders as they prepare to act on the New Partnership for Africa's Development

ROME, 14 June 2002 -- African leaders reaffirmed their unified political commitment to the agricultural and economic strategies set forth in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), adopting this week an action plan, which they will discuss with the G8 Summit in Canada later this month and to the African Unity (AU) Summit in South Africa next month. The meeting was hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) during the World Food Summit: five years later, 10-13 June.

NEPAD is a strategic and comprehensive plan for managing economic and social development in Africa, being prepared on behalf of all Africa by the leaders from 15 countries including the core members of the NEPAD Steering Committee, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. In the context of discussions revolving around political and financial commitments to eradicate hunger, Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, said that Africa is doing its part. "As a continent, we have established a framework through NEPAD within which the World Food Summit Plan of Action will be implemented," said Mr Mbeki in an address to delegates.

"NEPAD identifies agriculture as a priority sector," Mr Mbeki, said. In 2000, Africa spent US$18.7 billion on food imports and received 2.8 million tonnes of food aid, more than 25 percent of the world total for that year.

According to FAO, the agricultural sector in Africa accounts for about 60 percent of the total labour force, 20 percent of total merchandise exports and 17 percent of the GDP. Because agriculture plays such a critical role in the African economy, developing a healthy agricultural sector is a precondition for further economic development.

"Until the incidence of hunger is brought down and the import bill reduced by raising the output of farm products, there is no way in which the high rates of economic growth to which NEPAD aspires can be attained," according to the FAO/NEPAD joint Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) report.

The adoption of CAADP as a major component of the NEPAD framework is an important step towards ensuring agricultural stability and economic development, according to FAO. The programme, drafted with the technical assistance of FAO, seeks to respond to the immediate crisis situation facing African agriculture while building upon the long-term conditions for development. According to figures just released by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP), 13 million people in Mozambique and Zambia alone are faced with a severe food crisis. The long-term conditions of water and land management, rural infrastructure, market access, increasing food supply and reducing hunger can only be improved if emergency and disaster relief also figure prominently in the programme.

The CAADP calls for an ambitious investment of US$240 billion between now and 2015. That is an annual investment of US$17.2 billion, which is less than the annual cost of food imports into Africa. For Africa's part, domestic contributions to agricultural investment are pledged to increase from 35 to 55 percent as economic stability increases, leaving the rest to be raised through partnerships with other nations, the private sector, development and banking institutions, and centres of excellence.

Many partnerships were pledged this week in support of NEPAD, including Mr Josue Dione, Director of the Economic Commission for Africa, who expressed the commitment of ECA to "work with FAO and other partners in assisting the NEPAD Initiative in the agricultural sector as in all other areas."

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria said, "NEPAD is an authentic African initiative to resolve the endemic problems of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa. It is a long-term proposition and not a quick-fix."

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FAO, 2002