For reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger (SDG2) in Africa through joint efforts, the EU must address the challenges of nutrition and food security by boosting a safe and sustainable agri-food system globally. In line with SDG 2, this involves supporting small-scale farmers and equal access to land, technology and markets. It also requires international cooperation to ensure investment in infrastructure and technology to improve agricultural productivity. This webinar explored the African perspective on the measures needed for the global transition towards sustainable food systems. Given the current negotiations on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) as well as on a post-Cotonou Agreement, the questions about the role of trade to support these ambitions while ensuring the survival and competitiveness of farmers on both sides of the Mediterranean were discussed.

Moderated by ANNE SCHLEY, Project Manager for Development Policy Dialogue, Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSS), the panel had MARLENE MORTLER, Member of the European Parliament, SME Connect Board Member, Vice-Chair Delegation for Relations with South Africa, EPP Rapporteur for the AGRI Committee Opinion on a New EU-Africa Strategy, EPP Rapporteur for the DEVE Committee Opinion on the Farm to Fork Strategy, DR. MARIA FLACHSBARTH, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation & Development (BMZ), Germany, HON. ANGÉLIQUE NGOMA, Parliamentarian of the Republic of Gabon, President Commission Development, Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie, LEONARD MIZZI, Head of Unit, Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition, DG DEVCO.C.1, European Commission, DR. STEPHANIE GALLATOVA, Knowledge & Policy Team, UN Food Systems Summit Secretariat, LAWRENCE HADDAD, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), RODRIGO DE LAPUERTA,  Director, FAO Liaison Office to the EU & Belgium, CAS COOVADIA, CEO, Business Unity South Africa, HON. JEREMY LISSOUBA, Member of Parliament for the Republic of Congo.

In her opening speech, MARLENE MORTLER MEP, emphasised on the EU’s desire to work with Africa in five key areas: green transition, digital change, sustainable growth and jobs, peace and governance, migration and mobility. She mentioned that a partnership should be based on a clear understanding of everyone’s interests and responsibilities. Also, she highlighted that agricultural and trade policies play an important role in food security, and the zero-hunger objective during the Pandemic times. Thus, the protection of agriculture and food worldwide must be the top priority. In line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Europe wants to promote a global transition to sustainable food systems through the Farm2Fork and the EU-Africa Strategy

MARIA FLACHSBARTH highlighted three aspects to achieve sustainable development goals for humanity. The first one is the importance to chart a new cause in the EU Africa policy (because only cumulative work will be able to end hunger and poverty), to ensure peace and security, to stop climate change and biodiversity loss, to strengthen trade and fair supply chains. In her second point, the possibility of a world without hunger was mentioned.There is aneed for ambitious food systems that provide healthy food in sufficient quantities and qualities, protect resources, and respect planetary boundaries. The third aspect is about the role of the EU, agricultural policy and sector of which need to be aligned with green and food security ambitions.

HON. ANGÉLIQUE NGOMA  stated about a need for a holistic approach focused on the people. Such issues as poverty, health, transport infrastructure, and internet access should be also communicated. She mentioned that resilience is about human development, people and their communities. The Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to redefine African partnership with the EU on equal footing.

On the Commission side, LEONARD MIZZI commented that it is a time of the preparation period for 2021-2027, and the EU Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the elements of sustainable agri-food systems are systematically being positioned as amongst the top priorities. He highlighted that the European Union with the member states should think out of the box, innovatively, because today’s world is different than the one 10 years ago. Leonard Mizzi mentioned that the issue of research is very important because a transformed agri-food system without strong anchor research for development is not possible. In addition, there should be priorities around agricultural value chains towards fairness and inclusiveness. As a result, new multi-stakeholder dialogue was launched to involve all the parts in the discussion. He also emphasized on the importance of a trade agenda in Africa, which can increase substantially intra-regional trade.

STEPHANIE GALLATOVA spoke about the importance of Africa’s Small and Medium agro-enterprise sector in building resilient and sustainable food systems. She identifies SMEs as key actors in Africa’s agri-food system, which play an important role in terms of livelihoods and socio-economic development, creating jobs, especially for women, youth and marginalized groups, and mitigate rural urban migration as well as catalyse investments into rural areas. Dr. Gallatova stressed that the goals of the Food Systems should be based on such factors as access to safe and nutritious food, sustainable consumption and production, social equality, inclusion and job creation, resilience of the agricultural chain and food systems. In addition, she emphasized on the digitalization and innovation process for SMEs. It is important to ensure that companies adopt modern practices and techniques, which could be achieved through peer learning or mentoring SMEs by large companies which have access to modern technologies.

LAWRENCE HADDAD addressed the topic of how the trade policy should affect the availability and affordability of safe and nutritious foods. He mentioned that governments should focus on the export of healthy foods as it can generate positive spillovers for domestic production. For example, high productivity in vegetables for export should have a positive spillover to higher productivity for vegetables for domestic consumption, better roads for export should lead to better roads for domestic consumption, better coal chain technologies, better standards, and better capacity to meet those standards all have the potential for positive spillovers for the production and domestic consumption of these healthy foods. Demand for the export of healthy food is growing because consumers want to know that the exported products they are purchasing are sourced ethically and fairly. Lawrence Haddad believes that this creates a massive opportunity for workforce nutrition programs. For example, promoting nutrition, breastfeeding spaces, healthy foods in canteens and cafeterias, good nutrition education on site in the workforce. He commented that governments could achieve it by reducing tariffs on imported products that have the potential to improve the health of their populations as it is important for future economic productivity, reducing the burdens on the national health systems.

RODRIGO DE LAPUERTA supported Mr. Haddad’s thoughts that keeping food supply chains alive is crucial now. We need more than ever multilateralism, collective action to address the fragility of the Agri-food systems. FAO and the African Union have already committed to safeguarding food security amid the crisis. He also empathized on the development of inter-regional trade in Africa. Mr. Rodrigo de Lapuerta finished his speech highlighting the importance of the innovative approaches and current partnership among FAO, other UN agencies, the European Union and the EU member states towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

CAS COOVADIA spoke about the importance of the EU and South Africa partnership from a business perspective. These include geographic proximity, history, trade partnership between the EU and Africa. The latter has about 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, which is 60% of the global total. He thinks that the EU should consider it as a substantial investment potential including for agriculture and food processing. Mr. Cas Coovadia believes that business needs to contribute to the growth and development of communities that work in the national interest using science and data. There are both opportunities and challenges on the African continent, and he is sure that a partnership with the EU will enable Africans to build on opportunities.

In his closing speech, HON. JEREMY LISSOUBA addressed two topics. The first one is about the type of Public-Private Partnerships that can help farmers and SMEs in Congo remain competitive during the green transition. The second one is about the role of food businesses in Europe to support sustainable farming in Africa. He believes that promoting the emergence of diverse processing capabilities as well as enabling the ability for Africans to transform their raw materials should be an important factor to pay attention to. There is also an enormous potential for bio-based industries to be developed in Africa. In addition, partnerships should be not only with the public sector but directly between private actors. He states that synergy should be found between Africa and the EU, because European firms are also looking for new markets and Africa can give it. Thus, investment in production and processing capabilities is essential. The speaker concluded by saying that policymakers’ role is to catalyze, facilitate, frame and support partnerships activity by the appropriate regulation and reducing exposures to risk.