Africa is rising! I believe it, but how do we know? The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, led Africa’s leaders in the second formal review of the performance of Africa’s green revolution on 10th February at the 33rd African Union Summit. The purpose of this high-level agriculture centred agenda is to create jobs, reduce poverty and eliminate hunger by 2025 as rural economies are transformed.
Almost 50 governments across Africa compiled and sent their data in to the African Union Commission during 2019. Topics were as diverse as food safety, sustainable land managed, agricultural productivity, fertiliser use, irrigation use, private sector investment in agriculture, and child nutrition. The inaugural agriculture biennial review in 2018 was novel. Everybody acknowledged it a success for simply achieving a decent report covering so many countries. Though it had significant weaknesses in data quality. Most of all, it was disappointing through 2018 that few leaders and countries were galvanised by the results to reflect and act to improve their performance going forward.
Mutual accountability for results and impact is a key determining factor for Africa’s development as pointed out in the AU 2014 Malabo Declaration. It contains seven key commitments on agricultural transformation. In 2018, 20 countries were ‘on track’.
So, how is Africa doing two years later? And how can we ensure that this second performance review drives change this time around?
Only four countries are now on track to meet the goals of the Malabo Declaration from 2014. Africa is not on track to meet its goals. It appears that something is going wrong. However, most countries have improved their scores between then and now. Because the 2025 targets are extremely ambitious the milestones to meet them requires hard acceleration by countries that only grows over time. The pace of acceleration is probably beyond what most countries can achieve given their wider challenges. The fact that Africa’s leaders set such (seemingly unreachable) targets in 2014 is, I believe an insight into their desire for transformative change, and we should admire them for this. I also see no reason to let them off the hook now. Acceleration of all kinds, spurred by continually intensifying effort, is a good thing.
For the second biennial review in a row, Rwanda has the best overall score across all categories. Ghana is to be congratulated for moving from ‘off-track’ to now being ‘on-track’. There will be other areas of success and failure in sectors, regions, areas etc. So, with the review out – what is needed now?
We must build a shared understanding of the news that it brings. It is robust evidence. Stakeholders should reflect collectively on what the evidence is saying. The media can and should pick out any notable patterns or trends and ensure that this a moment when the government is held accountable. The BR evidence should be integrated into national and regional decision-making fora. Governments at different levels should take the opportunity to review the performance of the sector. Relevant parliamentary committees should also take the time to review the data and set out their findings, holding government to account. Civil society should be raising issues of performance with the government, parliamentarians, media and others. Farmers groups should see this as an important opportunity to influence positive change.
A cacophony of awareness raising about the Biennial Review is welcome. However, awareness can turn into purposeful and systemic change if five dimensions are kept in mind to help frame an effective response.
- Actors should get organised, by coordinating their efforts and building momentum in key areas. Governments are key in this area, and actors that are working with them such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and NGOs, can be catalytic.
- It is essential to make the issue matter to decision-makers and major influencers by connecting to peoples’ realities and building a compelling possible future.
- Setting a direction of travel for engagement, policy shifts, and notably for areas in which performance improvement is sought, is at the core of developing shared goals. Stakeholders can align behind such goals to accelerate progress for people and the environment that can be reflected in future reviews in 2022 and 2024.
- With a direction set, real change is unlikely to take place without changing the incentives that people and institutions have guiding their actions. Any change needs to make sense for a majority. Changes in structures, policies and behavioural nudges can help support positive change.
- Lastly, having the right mechanisms to learn as you go creates agility that can reinforce positive areas of work, and outline where work is being less successful. Sharing knowledge among actors, not hoarding it within a single institution, helps ensure substantial change can happen in shorter periods of time.
The purpose of ‘big data reviews’ and ‘African Union Summits’ is to use information to make better decisions for ordinary people. This is one of those moments for governments, regional economic communities, business groups, civil society and others to use this tool at their disposal in the most effective way possible. Africa’s rise will depend significantly on a thriving rural economy and transformed agriculture sector, that in turn, generates equitable wealth and well-being. Let’s see more countries ‘on-track’ in 2022 and again in 2024. The collaboration to accelerate Africa’s agricultural performance starts again now with renewed purpose. Tell me, what do you plan to do to amplify the results and help accelerate progress?
Wasafiri is committed to making change happen in this space. Contact me if you’d like more information: firstname.lastname@example.org