Mr Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General, says Africa has unrivalled agricultural potential, which could transform the continent into a surplus exporter of agricultural produce.
He said until Africa sees agriculture as a business and allows the private sector to intervene and invest along with governments, Africa would always import food.
Speaking at the opening of a day’s global forum on Creating Shared Value (CSV) by Nestle on the topic: “Building Stronger Economies and Communities in Africa,” Mr Annan expressed regret that Africa spends around $ 35 billion each year importing food.
“This requires governments to put in place appropriate policies and regulations, strengthen institutions, and invest in infrastructure.”
The meeting, the first to be organised in Africa, which brought governments, civil society organisations and businesses from Africa and beyond discussed a range of topics affecting the continent.
The meeting, focused on the theme: “Investing in Sustainable Development in Africa.”
Mr Annan who is also the Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, said Africa has the human and infrastructural resources to unlock the potentials but still has millions of its people living in abject poverty and hunger, being threatened by conflict, instability and disease.
He expressed concern about the inequality growing on the continent, which is widening the gap between the richest and the poorest.
“The lack of democratic, transparent and inclusive governance undermines citizen’s rights and investor confidence.”
He however, called for the need for Africa to build stronger economies and communities in Africa and beyond to transform African agriculture and food systems.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in four people are still chronically short of food; and millions more lack the right nutrition for proper health and development. Without action, climate change and demographic growth means that these numbers will only get worse,” he said.
Mr Annan called on the bigger corporations to share market access, improved seed varieties and advance farming techniques with smallholder farmers and local agribusinesses and ensure that agriculture and food systems are nutrition-smart.
“It is not just about the amount of food we grow, it’s also about the type of food that we consume. For we are what we eat. Nutrition is not just a health issue; it is crucial for economic growth as better nourished populations are more productive”, he added.
Mr Annan expressed concern about the environmental degradation and climate change with its severe weather patterns, which is driving many areas of Africa to the brink of catastrophe.
He urged governments to implement the commitments made when they endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Governments, Mr Annan said must adopt, enforce and strengthen policies that promote responsible natural resource management and prevent the loss of natural habitats, forests and biodiversity.
He called on businesses in Africa, to source, process and manage resources more sustainably to meet the growing demand, as well as preserving the environment by ensuring water stewardship, striving for zero waste and using energy resources sustainably.
Mr Annan urged African governments to address the issue of corruption, ensure that tax systems are free of loopholes, and promote transparency and accountability.
He said businesses should strictly comply with international standards of human rights across their operations and supply chain as well as adopt a zero tolerance policy towards child labour.
The former UN Secretary-General said skilled and knowledgeable workforce is crucial for the long-term success of business.
He advised political and business leaders to invest in Africa’s youth and women to harness their talent and creativity.
“We have the expertise, the technologies and the evidence needed to succeed. Healthy and prosperous societies are built on peace and security, inclusive development, and the rule of law and respect for human rights,” he said.
Mr Daniel Kablan Duncan, Ivoirian Prime Minister, called for the need to see Africa as the new frontier of development by adding value “to what we grow and shifting to the use of new technologies in farming”.
“We need to provide the agricultural sector with equitable sharing of growth to enhance the value chain to the win-win partnership in place,” he said.
Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, explained that a business could only be successful over time and create value for its shareholders if it is connected positively with the society and creating value.
“Creating Shared value is a powerful business concept that plays an important role in long term business success and sustainable development, and an ideal vehicle for the private sector to shape its future strategy and invest in sustainable development in Africa,” he added.