A chance for Africa's agri-food sector: With rising economic growth, people are increasingly asking for processed food.
Photo: Sunshine Seeds/ shutterstock.com

Zero hunger – turning political intent into action

One month after the SDG Summit in New York/USA, Welthungerhilfe invited experts to Berlin to discuss which measures must now be taken to achieve SDG 2 and what role Germany should play in this context.

The figures are depressing. The international community is on track with a mere twelve per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the United Nations estimates that around 600 million people will suffer from hunger in 2030. These are nearly just as many as in 2015. Thus SDG 2 – zero hunger – is one of the SDGs making the least progress. At the SDG Summit in New York in mid-September, UN Secretary General António Guterres reminded countries of their commitment – and that turning political intent into action above all called for financial commitment. Against this background, at a panel discussion in mid-October, Welthungerhilfe raised the issue of how rural development can be effectively financed. Here, the focus was particularly on the importance of official development assistance (ODA) and of multilateral approaches.

ODA shouldn’t be overestimated

Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), stood up for multilateralism. Whether it be debt relief, swaps, access to finance, there were simply too many reasons for a multilateral approach. In addition, the reform of the international finance architecture could not be accomplished nationally.

And the role of ODA? “ODA is playing  a crucial role because you can trigger politics with it,” Kofler said. In spite of the forthcoming budget cuts, Germany was not going to fail to reach the internationally agreed share of 0.7 per cent ODA of the Gross Domestic Product (currently at 0.83 per cent), she ensured. At the same time, she pointed out the weaknesses in the meaningfulness of this reference value. After all, factors such as the cost of refugees (in the first year of their stay in Germany) and spending on students from development countries are added to German ODA.

“We should not overestimate what ODA can do,” stated Mathias Mogge, Secretary General and CEO of Welthungerhilfe, putting things into perspective. In Africa, for example, a mere 2.5 per cent of overall investment came from this source. ODA was nevertheless important in achieving the SDGs.

What about the CAADP promise?

With their Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), African governments committed themselves to allocate at least ten per cent of their national budgets to agriculture and rural development in order to achieve annual growth of at least six per cent in the agricultural sector. With less than four per cent of the countries having reached the ten per cent level, one was still far off target, Moumini Savadogo, Mangaging Director of the pan-Africa research organisation Akademiya2063, conceded. But as important as setting ambitions and monitoring progress was, one must not lose track of what was happening on the ground. For example, since 2009, Africa had doubled public investment in agriculture, and in this period, productivity of agricultural land had risen by 50 per cent, Savadogo stated.

Food processing as an opportunity

He reminded the meeting that 79 per cent of trade in Africa consisted of processed food. With rising economic growth, people were also increasingly asking for locally processed food. Here, investment could bring about crucial changes. This in turn required an enabling environment for the private sector, also with secure access to energy. Another important aspect in making progress with achieving SDG 2 was to help countries prepare for and respond to shocks. At least three months before harvest, people had to know what its volume and its nutritional quality of food was going to be like so that countries could prepare for bottlenecks. Targeting vulnerable people was crucial, too.

De-risking private capital

“ODA should be used to de-risk private capital”, said Debisi Araba, Visiting Researcher at Imperial College London, UK, and Member of the agricultural expert group Malabo Montpellier Panel. Private capital needed a market return, and investors required incentives if their investments were to be steered towards prescribed targets. For example, with KfW co-financing, Nigeria had launched a Fund for Agricultural development which targets medium-sized enterprises. Araba recommended African countries to make use of the country case studies compiled by the Malabo Montpellier Panel to see how success was achieved and then model their own policies around such examples. He also noted that when assessing Malabo progress, the focus should not be solely on agricultural expenditure. “All African countries spend ten per cent of their budget when we consider food systems,” Araba said.

Private investments are no silver bullet

Sascha Rabe, former spokesman for the Social Democratic Party Parliamentary Faction in the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development, reminded the meeting that investment alone cannot solve all problems. Referring to the example of the extractive industries, Rabe called on the countries concerned to ensure that investment did not solely benefit a country’s rich. In addition, one had to see to it that farmers and youth were part of investment, Mogge added. “In no circumstances must investment result in more hunger,” he stressed, closing the discussion.

Silvia Richter, Rural 21

More information:

Rural 21 Dossier on Food Systems