TOWARDS A PRIORITISED OUTCOME-BASED APPROACH TO IMPLEMENTING AFRICA'S FOOD SECUSITY COMMITMENTS
“Beyond Diagnosis and Prescription to Action”
Despite a wealth of stakeholder consultations, plans, recommendations, commitments and declarations, food insecurity in Africa remains at unacceptably high levels (27%). Over the years, it has become clear that if Africa is short of anything, it is neither diagnosis nor prescriptions; it is implementation of already well-known remedies and sustained application of adequate and focused effort and resources to the challenges. The problem facing Africa comes to the fore at the stage of implementation when there is limited selectiveness in what to pay most attention to and in what sequence. In view of Africa's limited public capacity to invest for development, spreading efforts and resources thinly over all possible areas of intervention has little prospect of succeeding.
There is general concern that the implementation of Maputo and Sirte summit decisions is not moving at the right pace to make a significant contribution to the attainment of MDGs by 2015. In line with the NEPAD philosophy of increasing reliance on Africa's own resources, the challenge facing the 2006 Abuja Food Security Summit is to accelerate reduction of food and nutrition insecurity through fostering mind-set change in mobilization and utilization of African resources to implement a few quick wins at national, RECs and continental levels . The Abuja summit is based on full recognition that success in agriculture and food security cannot be divorced from national, regional, continental, and international efforts to address equity, peace and security, good governance, education and health issues. However, within the rural sector, opportunities to intervene productively must not be missed due to insistence that all these external factors must be in place or be perfected first.
This discussion paper recognizes the big annual African food import bill as an indication of the huge market that can be tapped and that through implementation of CAADP interventions based on decisions taken at Maputo and Sirte. Indeed, Abuja starts from the premise that some African countries are capable of quickly generating exportable surpluses. As preparations took place, there was awareness that market access has proved elusive in the past, partly due to failure to produce enough in quantity and quality. Therefore, while the summit provides an opportunity to review progress towards enhancing African agricultural trade within RECs and the continent, this must be on the understanding that African countries must have something to trade in the first place. Trade and production are thus inseparably linked and agreement on activities needed to quickly boost trade within and across the RECs (as a launching pad for an eventual Africa common market, initially focused on staple foods) must necessarily also boost productivity and production.
This discussion paper recognizes that no nation or region has ever achieved economic takeoff through begging and that investment of Africa's own resources must serve as precursor or catalyst for attracting external resources. Therefore, the Abuja Summit is to include among areas for priority attention how to accelerate progress towards complying with the AU and NEPAD 2003 Maputo Declaration commitment to allocate at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development within five years, i.e. by 2008. Apart from this, the preparatory meetings for the summit need to agree upon the best application of increased financial resources; this paper suggests that investment should target activities that can foster the greatest and earliest gains in productivity and competitiveness, i.e. (a) infrastructure (particularly roads, ports, storage and market structures), (b) water control (irrigation capacity at appropriate scales), and (c) creation of an appropriate environment to encourage the private-sector (both large and small-scale) to invest. The paper argues that Africa has adequate core resources to implement priority food and nutrition security interventions at national, REC and continental levels. If well implemented and if focused on a very few strategic food security and exportable products, Africa's own investment can create the necessary momentum and absorption capacity to effectively use additional public and private external inflows of funds into African agriculture.
Producing and trading are important but they do not necessarily guarantee good nutrition. The Abuja Summit is therefore also to propose practical interventions that can be mainstreamed into all agricultural and food security programmes with a view to achieving measurable impact in the area of good nutrition, including the enhancement of nutritive value for major staple foods.
In the belief that success breeds more success through a process of emulation, this paper encourages a closer look at what Africa itself is doing well towards achieving food security and at how to promote dissemination of such examples for replication and upscaling. Associated with this is a proposal for a possible mechanism to fund the learning process based on home-grown successes. more