The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) opened the 32nd Session of the Regional Conference for Africa on Wednesday, 13 April 2022. The first day of the conference officially kicks off on Thursday, 14 April in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo. Here, the spotlight will be placed on the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, and the way it hopes to improve food systems to be more resilient, inclusive and effective.
The ministerial conference takes place at a time when the continent’s goal of eradicating hunger by 2025, as well as FAO’s efforts to assist Members in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, are facing unprecedented challenges. A terrible drought is gripping East Africa, on top of the climatic crisis, long-standing regional conflicts, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third year. Most recently, the conflict in Ukraine has severely limited wheat supplies to Egypt and other nations, driving up bread costs in the continent’s north.
“Like the tall ceiba tree on the flag of Equatorial Guinea, we too must stand tall in facing Africa’s many complex challenges,” said Director-General QU Dongyu during his opening statement. “The number of people going hungry in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the rise again after years of decline. According to the latest numbers available, 282 million people on the continent, or over one-fifth of the population, don’t have enough food, representing a rise of 46 million from 2019.”
The Government of Equatorial Guinea is hosting this year’s regional conference. It brings together over 50 African countries’ agricultural ministers and other government officials, as well as civil society organisations, the commercial sector, development partners, and observer member countries.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea, said the conference came at a critical time for the region’s economy and that there was a pressing need to reform our agrifood systems in a sustainable manner. The African Union Commission’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment, Josefa Sacko, also spoke on the first day of the conference, which is the FAO’s highest governing body in Africa.
“Africa has great potential for change and prosperity due to its rich natural resources and its large pool of innovative young people,” Dongyu said. “You are here today as key leaders to drive this change. Let us be tall and strong like the ceiba tree, and continue to work together efficiently, effectively and coherently, and in a more innovative way for The Africa We Want!”
FAO is working on multiple fronts to help transform Africa’s agrifood systems, which Dongyu says can play a central role in meeting the challenges of poverty, hunger, the climate crisis.
The Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which has so far attracted 27 African countries, the One Country One Priority Product initiative, which is assisting countries in developing their value chains of special agro-products in ways that are inclusive, profitable, and environmentally sustainable, and the 1000 Digital Villages initiative, which places digitalisation at the heart of rural transformation and prosperity and is currently being piloted in seven African countries, are among FAO’s flagship initiatives.