AGRF Presidential Summit: Time to Turn Africa’s Potential into Reality

Ms Nozipho Tshabalal, MD, Akwanda Productions welcomed the audience to this high-level presidential discussion before handing over to H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chair, AGRF Partners Group, for his opening remarks. He thanked Rwanda and H.E. Paul Kagame for hosting this year’s AGRF and urged us all, in these difficult times, to keep our eye on the prize – an inclusive agricultural transformation. He commended Rwanda for taking on a truly innovative and interactive virtual summit that is keeping a vital conversation going and engaging more than 10,000 participants across 150 countries.

H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda concurred that, although the pandemic has made this hybrid summit necessary, it had risen to the challenge. He expanded on the theme of urbanization, saying that urban consumers want more variety at cheaper prices, yet food needs to be nutritious: “the quality of our urbanization depends on building links between producers and consumers to provide the food city dwellers want without importing.” He was adamant that the only reason we would continue to import food is because we have not made it a priority to add value to our products.

The panel discussion began with H.E. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister, Ethiopia who outlined a few initiatives that place agriculture at the centre of its growth and development plans. He explained the importance of modernizing agriculture through technology as a catalyst for economic development and acknowledged that too much emphasis had previously been on improved seeds and fertilizers. He called for deliberate public investment that avoids re-inventing the wheel – adapting existing technologies rather than starting from scratch.

H.E. Amina Jane Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group was empathic that Africa does not need to be told what to do, that it knows, but we need to address the issue of implementation and that the current COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to recalibrate using framework policies that exist and building on them. H.E. Moussa Faki, Chairperson AU Commission put out a message to African leaders that the USD 65 billions of imports is unacceptable, that they need to be clear about budget allocations and start investing in infrastructure. H.E. Paul Kagame, agreed that there is plenty to be done, but that some is being done. However, he admitted that reaching the UN’s SDGs will be even more challenging thanks to the pandemic, but agriculture will be the key to regaining momentum.

H. E. Paul Kagame asked how we would make next year’s summit different, so we stop having the same conversations over and over. He argued the best way to be inspired is to see things actually happening. He talked about the huge potential of the continent, but said we need to move from potential to reality. He called on young people to develop a mind-set of doing things, moving from one place to another, rather than running around in circles. “We are like an aircraft on the runway. Now we need to take off.”

The Summit closed with a video from Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel who began by thanking H. E. Paul Kagame “a forward-thinking leader, committed to modernising African agriculture and creating a vibrant agriculture sector that brings economic growth.”