FAO Regional Office for Africa

Overcoming COVID-19 challenges to collaborate better than ever before

FAO in Africa: a year in review


18 December 2020, Accra – Despite the enormous challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be a successful year for closer partnerships for the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Office for Africa.

“We used the COVID-19 situation as an opportunity, through greater communication facilitated by the virtual modalities, to be able to engage with partners and stakeholders despite physical distancing and to reinforce FAO’s technical leadership and policy advocacy,” the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel said.  

The year began with a high-level side event at the African Union Summit on the humanitarian-peace-development nexus.

Collaboration with the African Union deepened after the COVID-19 pandemic began, with a focus on ensuring African food systems could continue to function to prevent a health crisis from becoming a food crisis. This included the activities of a special taskforce co-chaired by FAO and the African Union Commission, with the AU Development Agency NEPAD, the African Development Bank, the European Union, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Bank, and the World Food Programme,; and bringing together African Ministers of Agriculture, Trade and Finance for the first time to jointly address the pandemic challenge.

FAO and the African Union also published the joint Regional Outlook on Gender and Agrifood systems in Africa which provides an in-depth review of the challenges and best practices to empower women in the agriculture sector. 

“I believe that we have been able to elevate the partnership with the African Union to greater heights,” Abebe Haile-Gabriel said.

FAO in Africa also organised or co-organised a number of high level virtual forums to facilitate dialogue on relevant topics with members, stakeholders and other partners including the private sector.

Adapting to the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted  our program teams to innovate in order to continue their work, despite movement restrictions. For example, teams in Somalia shifted to using more mobile money transfers, using sophisticated bio-verification techniques, and a training program to encourage more African countries to take on Home Grown School Feeding successfully adapted to the new normal.

Innovation has been a hallmark of our actions during the year, particularly through FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which is being rolled out in 11 African countries in 2020. The Initiative matchmakes countries with donor partners and uses sophisticated tools and analytics to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development.

FAO has also continued to provide innovative technical support to countries, including in  Rwanda to develop aeroponics, in Malawi to grow pineapples, and across Africa to stretch scarce water resources further.

This year, FAO also held the first ever virtual Regional Conference for Africa, hosted by Zimbabwe. The 31st session of the Regional Conference for Africa had the largest attendance ever,  which resulted in greater inclusiveness and engagement, including by the private sector, civil society organisations and other partners. The recommendations made during the Conference will guide FAO’s work in the region going forward. 

Throughout the year, FAO has responded to a number of food security threats including the Desert Locusts emergency in eastern Africa, the African Migratory Locusts emergency in Southern Africa, the worsening food security situation in South Sudan and the Sahel, among others.

As this difficult year draws to a close, we at FAO Africa look forward to greater partnerships and more innovation to accelerate progress towards sustainable transformation of agri-food systems and ending hunger.