Accelerating results in Africa: Reflections from my recent trip

Source: IFPRI

Source: IFPRI

In the first half of November, I traveled to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal. My first stop was in Nairobi, Kenya to take part in CGIAR-wide meetings, including the CGIAR Knowledge Day (an event to assess how the CGIAR Research Programs can best contribute to the system-level goals).

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I met with top officials in the government and donor communities together with Godfrey Bahigwa, Head of IFPRI’s Eastern and Southern Africa office, Karen Brooks, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets, Bart Minten, Program Leader of the Ethiopia Strategy Support Program, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Head of IFPRI’s 2020 Initiative, to discuss IFPRI’s work in Ethiopia and in the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

The highlight of my visit was a meeting with H. E. Prime Minister Hailemariam Dealegn, who graciously agreed to inaugurate our next 2020 Conference on “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” to be held on May 15-17, 2014, in Addis Ababa, which I introduced in my October post.

During our visit with the Prime Minister, our discussions also focused on IFPRI’s role, particularly through the Ethiopia Strategy Support Program, in supporting agricultural transformation and economic growth in Ethiopia. He expressed his appreciation for our role in facilitating and supporting Ethiopia’s Commodity Exchange and the Agricultural Transformation Agency.

He highlighted the need for our continued partnership to also include support for advancing Ethiopia’s export-oriented livestock sector, smallholder-friendly mechanization (to ease rural labor constraints), and the development of Special Economic Zones, particularly related to food and agricultural raw materials processing.

My last stop was in Dakar, Senegal to also meet with our partners and take part in the Annual Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) Conference.

During my visit, Ousmane Badiane, Director of IFPRI’s Africa Regional Office, and I also met with   H. E.  Aminata Toure, Prime Minister of The Republic of Senegal as well as the Minister of Agriculture,  H.E. Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck.

In our meeting with the Prime Minister, she emphasized the need for Senegal to reduce its reliance on rice imports, a staple crop in the country. Increased investments in agricultural R&D (to improve productivity), input supply, market development, and extension will be critical to expand rice production.

Trade policy distortions such as import tariffs that hurt poor consumers should be avoided. IFPRI, especially through our West and Central Africa Office, is well-positioned to provide well-informed policy options for the development of Senegal’s rice sub-sector.

I gave opening remarks to start off the 2013 ReSAKSS Annual Conference  and also in a joint session of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition Cooperation Framework for Senegal.

The Prime Minister of The Republic of Senegal, H.E. Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and the Canadian Francophone, H.E. John Marshall, British Ambassador and Representative of the G8 Presidency, and Boaz Blackie Keizire, Representative of the African Union Commission also offered their opening remarks.

This year’s ReSAKSS annual conference themed “Achieving the Maputo Declaration Target and Prioritizing Public Agricultural Expenditures” was timely given that the year marks the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

The program was launched in 2003 when African governments pledged to allocate at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture in “The Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.” Performance towards the CAADP target has been mixed and slow, however. Since 2003, only 13 countries have surpassed the target in any single year and only 7 have surpassed the target in most years.

The conference was well attended and the discussions on how to achieve the Maputo Declaration Target by prioritizing and increasing the efficiency of public agricultural expenditures were stimulating.

IFPRI, in collaboration with our partners, has been supporting the implementation of the CAADP agenda through ReSAKSS by filling critical knowledge gaps and building institutional and technical capacities. This year, ReSAKSS’s Annual Trends and Outlook Report titled “Complying with the Maputo Declaration Target” is indeed very timely.

We look forward to strengthening our partnership with African organizations and stakeholders in order to advance the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and ensure food and nutrition security.