Countdown 2025: Partners recommit to accelerating growth for African agriculture towards Malabo goals despite emerging setbacks.

Six years ago, African Heads of State and Government met in Equatorial Guinea and adopted the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. While many countries have made progress toward achieving the Malabo Commitments, the rate of progress has not been sufficient to keep them on-track to achieving them by 2025. According to the Second Biennial Review (BR) report, only four countries are currently on-track. Why has progress been slower than anticipated, and what can be done to turn the tide?

Last month, partners working in African agriculture participated in the 16th Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform (PP) , a two-day virtual event focused on the urgent need to share lessons and identify actions that would impact policy and practice. This gathering offered keen points of reflection on production in the face of COVID-19 related disruptions along agricultural value chains as well as the importance of data generation for presenting a true picture for effective intervention.

It was immediately clear that though the Malabo Summit reaffirmed the importance of agriculture in the development agenda, and as a critical policy initiative for Africa’s economic growth and poverty reduction, agriculture remains a data poor sector, which affects advocacy to attract and sustain focus and investment.

In his keynote address, Akademiya2063 Chair Ousmane Badiane highlighted the fact that the sector’s position in governments across Africa had weakened over time as it hadn’t performed well enough to justify funding from the Ministries of Finance. Other speakers called attention to the fact that existing food systems do little to contribute to efforts to improve consumption, with Africa bearing the brunt of chronic and acute hunger. One reason for this could be that the Country CAADP process has yet to be fully anchored in National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs), which are closely aligned with national planning frameworks, resulting in efforts and resources being pulled for similar yet parallel undertakings. Deliberations on mutual accountability also revealed that data is currently only sourced from governments, and there is no understanding of how stakeholder behavior is changing beyond the commitment level.

As countries work on bettering the quality of data they generate and how they use it, mutual accountability can certainly benefit from both processes. Mutual accountability is evident in a country’s capacity to (i) collectively validate and use data (20 countries are on track), (ii) establish a platform for managing data (13 countries are on track), and (iii) show ownership of the BR process (no country on track). A lot still needs to be done to ensure all stakeholders are brought in and have appropriate capacities to engage. Notably, in the countries that managed Mutual Accountability processes well, there was high public investment signaling that the accountability either improves efficiency in allocating funds or helps create an enabling environment to increase public funds. These outcomes are important going forward in repositioning agriculture as a key sector in economies.

Dr. Sam Benin, Deputy Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Africa Division, outlined five key policy drivers for agricultural transformation for the continent (see image below): institutions, technology and knowledge, human capital, infrastructure, and markets and trade. These find unique applications in line with observed types of agricultural transformation taking place based on four indicators for individual countries: agriculture employment share, agriculture Gross Domestic Product share, agriculture labor productivity, and expected growth rate or change. These bespoke points of evidence can be a critical starting point to address the lack of delivery on results from research and analyses.

Lessons from the convening informed recommendations to enable partners to jumpstart progress for the achievement of Malabo goals:

  • Ensure ownership of commitments by local decision makers

  • Work toward having long-term partnerships with government as these improve trust

  • Improve human capital in policy units, and their capacity to engage, within Ministries of Agriculture

  • Ensure engagement with multiple partners such as civil society, media, other ministries etc. during planning and review cycles by the Ministries of Agricultures

  • Ensure sustained trust, coordination and implementation by ministries by engaging with senior officials as well as mid-level technocrats

  • Utilize regional networks for regional options

  • Embed foreign advisors for long run technical assistance

  • Measure success by contribution and influence rather than outcome

  • Make delivery systems better by building investments on them so that policy data and analyses have gateways

  • Match political will with actual budget investments

  • Promote cross-country learning as CAADP is mutual work among countries

  • Improve the quality of data and analysis, and ultimately, reporting

  • Align existing country processes and the Biennial Review

More detail on the specific presentations and recording from the CAADP PP can be found here, as well as the Communique that summarizes the key messages and recommendations from the event.