Director-General  QU Dongyu

Director-General highlights the different dimensions of Innovation needed to address food security in Africa


29 April 2021, Rome - Unprecedented challenges including the climate crisis, natural disasters and man-made conflicts mean “we need a new business model” to address food security in Africa, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said today.

FAO has made Africa, where 246 million people go to bed hungry on a daily basis, its top priority to assist countries in agriculture and rural development, the Director-General said at the High-Level Virtual Dialogue on Feeding Africa: Leadership to scale up successful innovations held to contribute  towards the UN Food Systems Summit to be held in September.

“We have to understand what is real innovation,” Qu said, noting that the innovation can be found in technology, finance and policies, adding that “The most important one is the innovation of mindsets,”.

“Feeding Africa: Leadership to Scale up Successful Innovations” is a two-day series of dialogues co-hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Participating in the platform’s main Ministerial Panel, the Director-General, spoke along with Gebreil Ibrahim, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of the Republic of Sudan and Josefa Sacko, the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Blue Economy.

Sacko hailed the “coordination and coherence” that AU member countries had managed to achieve thanks to a FAO-enabled dialogue among all the key stakeholders in the agriculture sectors. “Agriculture is a mainstream sector, so we should invite other sectors to work together” with it, she said.

The FAO Director-General noted that he had brought in ministers of trade and finance as well as  agriculture to foster broader and more effective actions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We Africans have to feed ourselves,” said Minister Ibrahim, noting his country is vast and has lots of arable land but is not self-sufficient in food. “We think that if our resources are well utilized we can feed not only Sudan but the larger region,” he said, adding that his government has identified technology and innovation as key pathways forward.

The FAO Director-General also alluded to the Organization’s focus on information sharing, investment partnerships, capacity building, data and technology transfer and to modernize the business models of its partners in Africa. He pointed to the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform and FAO’s Investment Centre as key assets the Organization brings to the task.

“Feeding Africa” showcased some success stories in the use of technologies in African agriculture - including the use of drones and precision farming techniques for wheat, maize and soy - and explored ways to further raise their potential in transforming the continent’s agri-food systems. 

In the opening ceremony, several heads of state emphasized their pledge to enhance their policy focus on agriculture, in particular aiming to reduce reliance on imported cereals, especially rice, bolster commercialization efforts for farmers, enlarge irrigation capacities and to bridge the gap so that digital technologies benefit rural smallholders.