The Global Stocktake and food systems: Lessons from The 2023 UN Food Systems Stocktaking Moment.

  • 31 Jul 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Amath Pathé Sene

Time to take stock of our food systems

Creativity and innovation are, in fact, key to sustainably transforming our food systems into ones capable of feeding the continent sustainably and creating decent job opportunities for our vibrant youth and women” Amath Pathe Sene

The 2023 UN Food Systems Stocktaking Moment is the first global follow-up to the 2021 Food Systems Summit, where individuals and countries are committed to accelerate and deepen the transformative power of food systems, for the full realisation of all 17 SDGs.

Convened by the UN Secretary-General, this meeting aims to create a conducive space for countries to review commitments to action that were made during the Summit, share stories of success and early signs of transformation, and maintain the momentum for bold acceleration and bold action to further the resilience of food systems.

The UN Food Systems Coordination Hub has developed a template that countries can use to assess progress on their commitments and in their food systems. This will undoubtedly be a very useful tool for the strategic planning of action on food systems in Africa.

If we play things right here in Africa, we can capitalise on the processes of reviewing the aforementioned declarations and commitments to quicken the pace of Africa’s food systems transformation. It is well-known that the agriculture and food sectors are among the greatest contributors to GHG emissions. Yet, it is also true that adequate investments in the transition to truly sustainable, resilient and inclusive food systems would turn agriculture into a key solution. In fact, without this transition, meeting many global goals and targets will be impossible. Hence the importance of maintaining the pressure on developed countries to make good on their promises to transfer to developing countries the resources they need to sustainably increase the production and supply of food to their rapidly growing population.

Indeed, in Africa, we have recently witnessed how quickly things can worsen amidst shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine highlight the vulnerability of Africa’s food systems to external shocks. Fertiliser prices have tripled in some African countries on account of the conflict, affecting the costs of food production, while global inflation has led to rising food prices, especially, but not exclusively, those for imported food. This adds to the annual US$35 billion food bill that puts even more strain on African countries’ foreign exchange reserves and diverts much-needed resources away from investing in the region’s food systems.

The African context is, therefore, marked by paradoxes: food insecurity is on the rise in the region despite millions of hectares of fertile, uncultivated land. The explanation for this is quite complex, as the reality on the ground varies greatly from one country or even one subregion to the next. Common obstacles that African farmers and countries face are high levels of vulnerability to climate variability and events, and adverse growing conditions; under-investment in or under-capitalization of technology and innovation, information and infrastructure; fractured markets, and a general lack of capacity to address key risks posed by climate change, among others.

Therefore, African governments and the private sector must urgently establish policies that address the weak linkages between food systems and the financial sector to accelerate public and private investments in productive, nutritious, inclusive and climate-resilient food systems. Creativity and innovation are, in fact, the key to sustainably transforming our food systems into ones capable of feeding the continent sustainably and creating decent job opportunities for our vibrant youth and women.

Against this backdrop, the upcoming Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 Summit, to be held in early September in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, offers a timely opportunity to take stock of progress on food systems transformation in Africa and re-set the continental agenda ahead of COP28.

From September 4-8th, the summit will bring together leading experts, businesses and delegates from all across Africa to assess the state of affairs in Africa’s agri-food and agriculture sectors and, together, define decisive strategies and urgent actions to enable the continent to recover and rebuild its food systems.  

As the theme of the 2023 summit “Regenerate, Recover, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation” suggests, the goal is to ensure the African continent continues to assume its leadership role in food system recovery and transformation. The summit will be a space for showcasing the latest African solutions, innovations and best practices, including technologies for the regeneration of natural resources.

The summit will serve as a convening platform to promote the production of sufficient, locally sourced and more nutritious food while improving how it is produced, particularly in a changing climate.

One highlight of this year’s summit will be the participation of women and youth in food system transformation, with a focus on their engagement in the stocktaking of progress and the establishment of new partnerships to fast-track objectives.

This year’s summit promises to be a critical milestone in Africa’s journey towards food security and shared prosperity. I hope you will join us for this exciting moment in the region’s quest for solutions to accelerate Africa’s food system transformation.