President Paul Kagame on Thursday said that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a relief to the continent’s food security challenges, stating that it will among others open up new market fronts, ending the continent’s reliance on food imports.

President Kagame made the remarks during a high-level dialogue dubbed ‘Feeding Africa’, organised by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The virtual dialogue aimed at discussing ways the continent can scale up innovation and technology to strengthen food systems in order to end Africa’s reliance on food imports.

“Africa’s food situation is already fragile due to low productivity and trade barriers. Climate change is making the challenge even more difficult, as rainfall patterns shift and desertification worsens,’ Kagame said.

Just like the rest of the world, the Covid-19 pandemic is an added burden that Africa is still confronting, he added.

“However, solutions to these challenges are known and within our means. Transforming agriculture in Africa is an urgent task. No one can be satisfied with subsistence. Agribusiness can be a pathway to prosperity for African families,” he asserted.

According to Kagame, the African continent needs to improve research capacity and also integrate modern technology to boost productivity, among other things.

“We need to strengthen partnerships to tap into successful innovations to produce more food, at affordable prices, and with less environmental impact,” he said.

Kagame shared Rwanda’s example saying that the country has invested in climate-smart technologies and has collaborated closely with regional institutions, development partners, and the private sector.

Consequently, African countries need to trade with each other more to take full advantage of the potential that will come with the AfCFTA.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area widens the scope of opportunity for African agribusiness to reach its full potential.”

“For too long, our continent imported food that we are capable of producing ourselves, simply because of internal trade barriers, among other things,” the Head of State said.

Incentives for the youth

On the other hand, President Kagame gave a rallying call to African leaders challenging them to improvise incentives for the youth to join agriculture as a career.

“In Rwanda, and elsewhere in Africa, we have been encouraged to see an increasing number of young graduates dedicating themselves to agriculture, and making good money out of it.”

“Sustaining this trend requires the support of leaders at all levels, as well as easier access to finance and insurance products,” he told the gathering.

He pointed out that the agricultural economy will be the foundation of Africa’s future prosperity for decades to come but there is a need for more unified efforts to give the sector the attention and investment it deserves.

According to the AfDB, Africa is losing more than 50 percent of its production after harvest.

Similarly, IFAD estimates that the number of people going hungry in Africa has increased from 214 million to 246 million over five years. Rapid agricultural transformation through raising productivity will help feed the continent.

Across the continent, hunger poses an even greater risk than Covid-19. The number of people living with hunger increased from 214 million to 246 million between 2015 and 2020.

Agricultural and agro-business-related activities could provide employment opportunities for millions of young Africans, who account for 70% of the population.

The two institutions have partnered to provide financing to support food transformation and the creation of jobs in Africa’s agro-industry.