Business action to unlock the potential of African farmers – WBCSD’s takeaways from the AGRF Summit 2023


Africa’s food systems are facing unprecedented challenges such as climate change, geopolitical instability and rising food prices following the impacts of COVID-19 and the Ukraine war. These challenges are aggravated by currency depreciation against the US dollar and difficult access to agricultural inputs within the continent.

Despite these critical challenges, Africa is a continent of untapped opportunity: it has the potential to feed itself and contribute to feeding the global population while contributing positively to our planet. This, however, requires tackling several core structural and socio-economic challenges. First, we must empower smallholder farmers to achieve their full potential and mobilize public and private investments to create more resilient supply chains. At the same time, we must scale up agricultural practices that improve food production while benefiting farmer livelihoods and being regenerative.

This year, the Africa Food Systems Forum (AGRF) was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (5 – 8 September) under the theme “Recover, Regenerate, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation.” More than 5400 delegates were mobilized to align on the required solutions to scale investments in Africa’s food systems, including heads of states, ministers, private sector, farmers, academia, NGOs and youth representatives.

During the AGRF summit, WBCSD co-hosted a session – in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – on sustainable sourcing in Africa as a tool for agri-food companies to better enable SME market access, strengthen business relationships with SME suppliers and address the structural bottlenecks preventing sustainable business development at the regional level. Leveraging procurement and sourcing practices to improve farmer incomes and livelihoods represents a critical lever to reduce supply risks, build resilient value chains and deliver against companies’ ESG targets.

Identifying finance mechanisms customized to the specific needs and crop cycles of local farmers emerged as a crucial strategy during this event. This approach has the potential to unleash the capabilities of African farmers, transforming them from subsistence agriculture practitioners into thriving and sustainable agricultural entrepreneurs. Both WBCSD and AGRA recognize finance as a catalyst for change, particularly in aiding farmers as they shift towards regenerative agriculture practices. As such, both organizations will maintain their commitment to addressing this area. Additionally, the event highlighted the importance of capacity building as another key initiative. Empowering farmers with the knowledge and skills to improve their farming practices in a sustainable manner not only enhances their resilience but also increases their income prospects.

Sourcing and investing in Africa continues to be a huge and under-tapped opportunity. Let’s work harder to catalyze sustainable business and recognize Africa’s role in the global supply chain. Africa food and agribusiness leaders are not just producers; they are innovators, investors and advocates in the global market. Let’s leverage these partnerships.Vanessa Adams, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Chief of Party at AGRA

WBCSD has previously worked with its members on inclusive sourcing to strengthen suppliers to shape an equitable food system, focusing on women empowerment, innovating financing mechanisms, effective communication with suppliers, and capacity building. In our current strategy, WBCSD’s Equitable Livelihoods team is working with over 20 member companies engaged in a diverse range of agricultural value chains to promote responsible and sustainable corporate procurement practices to guarantee farmers a living income. This project aims to accelerate business action to close farming households’ living income gaps, thus reducing poverty, promoting better livelihoods and reducing vulnerability to food and nutrition insecurity. The project builds on our earlier work from our Healthy and Sustainable Diets agenda on food affordability.

During the AGRF Summit, WBCSD also co-organized a side event focusing on how the private sector can help increase food & nutrition security through sustainable intensification of local food production and economic empowerment of smallholders. During the session, we heard about the various initiatives that OCP Africa, Fertilizer Canada, Rabobank and NMB bank are spearheading to support African smallholder farmers through capacity building, digitization and financial inclusion.   WBCSD’s special Food & Nutrition Security Taskforce will use insights from this session to develop its final recommendations for the November Council Meeting. We will also continue to support efforts led by the Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge to drive further impact on food and nutrition security at the global level.  

Following the AGRF Summit, we are continuing to mobilize the private sector for food system transformation in the lead up to regional events such as WAFI (Beijing, China – November 2-4) as well as global events such as COP28 (Dubai, UAE – November 30-December 12). At COP28, there will be a unique and formal opportunity to discuss how the agricultural sector can contribute to achieving global as well as national climate goals. High on the agenda will be regenerative agriculture, which is defined by our OP2B project as an outcome-based farming approach that generates agricultural products while improving soil health, biodiversity, climate, water resources and supporting farmers’ livelihoods.


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