The current cooperation between Africa and Europe on agriculture and food security is substantial. To put a number to it: the EU provides roughly € 1 billion per annum to support agriculture and food security in Africa from the EU development budget. This takes the form of grants.
In a number of countries these grants are provided in the form of budget support for agriculture – directly financing the Government’s agricultural plans through the national budgeting processes. In other countries we support specific projects and programmes on areas like agricultural research, innovation, sustainable intensification, land tenure, or soil and water management.
We work together with Governments and the private sector to develop promising value chains to facilitate public and private investments. In this context, blended finance is increasingly used to facilitate investments in agriculture and agri-businesses.
However, we all agree that this form of cooperation, and this level of cooperation, is no longer sufficient. We need to ramp things up if we want to build a real partnership of equals. As the Report of the Task Force Rural Africa rightly stresses, we need to intensify our relations to address the many challenges around climate change, environmental pressures, and rapid transformation.
At the same time, we need to maximise the huge potential of the young, dynamic African population; we need to take full advantage of rapid technological change; and we need to continue taking bold steps towards greater free and fair trade on the African continent. To do all this we need to go well beyond our traditional ways of cooperating.
We have highlighted a number of examples of this new and more dynamic cooperation. We have heard recent examples of how EU blended finance is finding its way to African and European investors in agricultural value chains. We have learned about the specific opportunities for digital agriculture. We have highlighted good examples of cooperation in research and innovation and signed a number of new agreements, for a value of € 38 million. We have discussed how our long experience in Europe can contribute to strengthening Africa’s food safety systems at continental, regional and national levels.
I am particularly pleased about three initiatives:
First, we have entered into a new phase of cooperation with African Farmers Organisations. This new phase will not only provide support to enhance the effectiveness of these Organisations to serve their members interests, it will also include exchanges between African and European farmers. This is one of the concrete recommendations of the TFRA put into practice.
Second, we have been able to highlight the potential of female entrepreneurship in agriculture. Experiences from around the continent showed opportunities for further connecting women agri-entrepreneurs with the private sector. I believe that if the many barriers to women’s agri-entrepreneurship can be overcome, women will be absolutely central to delivering economic growth, poverty reduction, job creation, trade and food security. Women’s empowerment and gender equality should rightfully remain on top of our cooperation agenda.
Thirdly, we have launched with the support of the EU concrete projects to support the African Strategy for Geographical Indications: a structured training scheme and a web platform that will help promote GIs as a tool for rural development.
What do we want to achieve? In my view, we are seeking to implement transformative change in agriculture and agri-food value chains in Africa to help increase the value of commodities and the market share of Africa in global and regional trade.
Growth and value addition needs to increasingly take place in Africa, and of course we believe this will be done best and most effectively in the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area. That is why we are focusing on improving value chains, supporting farmer organisations and investing in public research. We are convinced that this agricultural transformation will be at the heart of employment creation and of the sustainable development of rural areas.
As the TFRA report stated: we need a quality shift in EU-Africa relations and to make this happen, we need to ramp up cooperation at the level of government, business and people. We need to jointly work on the best pathways leading to sustainable food systems, nationally, continentally and globally. Food systems that are able to feed us all adequately, while using resources sustainably and providing decent livelihoods.
I believe that through regular dialogue, through closer cooperation and in partnership with the Rome-Based Agencies we can and should accelerate the transition to such food systems. All these initiatives are reflected in the political declaration that constitutes the major outcome of this Conference.
This declaration is a major step forward in our partnership. It contains an action agenda with tangible initiatives we will jointly put in place. I invite all of you to keep this agenda growing in content and scope.
This robust political engagement will strengthen our partnership and bring it to a higher level. It will deliver on the commitment of making ours a true political partnership of equals.
I am happy to see that this declaration contains in its annex an Action Agenda with concrete initiatives that both continents will jointly put in place. In fact, these actions have been carefully selected in order to make sure we can deliver results in 2 years' time! It is a constructive agenda bringing together stakeholders from both continents.
Let us take pride in our achievements. Let us not rest on our laurels now.We are, as Commission President Juncker says “twin continents” with a shared destiny – to prosper side-by-side, based on the strength and dynamism of our rural economies, the quality and tradition of our delicious and varied foods, and the friendship of our peoples, now and in the future.
By Phil Hogan
European commissioner for agriculture and rural development