Countdown to 2025: Recommitting to Goals for Agricultural Growth in Malabo
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 focused on 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 coronavirus-related disruptions along agricultural value chains, as well as the importance of data generation to present a true picture for effective intervention.
It was immediately clear that although the Malabo Declaration is a critical policy initiative for Africa’s economic growth and poverty reduction, as it reaffirms the importance of agriculture in any development agenda, agriculture remains a data-poor sector, which affects advocacy's ability to attract and sustain focus and investment. In his keynote address at the CAADP PP, Chair Ousmane Badiane highlighted the fact that the agricultural 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, which are closely aligned with national planning frameworks, and so resources are 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:
- Collectively validate and use data (20 countries are on track);
- Establish a platform for managing data (13 countries are on track);
- Show ownership of the BR process (no country is on track).
A lot still needs to be done to ensure that all stakeholders are included and have appropriate capacities to engage. Notably, in the countries that manage mutual accountability processes well, there is also high public investment — signaling that accountability either improves efficiency in allocating funds or helps create an enabling environment to increase public funds. These outcomes are important to note moving forward, 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 graphic below): institutions, technology and knowledge, human capital, infrastructure and markets/trade. These find unique applications in line with observed types of agricultural transformation that take 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 points of evidence can be a critical starting point to address the lack of delivery on results from research and analyses.
Lessons from this recent conference informed recommendations that help partners to jump-start progress for the achievement of Malabo goals, which focus on these objectives:
- Ensure ownership of commitments by local decision-makers.
- Work toward long-term partnerships with government to improve trust.
- Improve human capital in policy units and their capacity to engage Ministries of Agriculture.
- Ensure engagement with multiple partners, such as civil society, media, and other ministries, 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 more local options.
- Embed foreign advisors for long-term technical assistance.
- Measure success by contribution and influence rather than outcome.
- Make delivery systems better by investing in them, so that policy data and analyses can track these gateways.
- Match political will with actual budgetary investments.
- Promote cross-country learning, as CAADP relies mutual work among countries for ultimate success.
- Improve the quality of data and analysis, and ultimately, reporting.
- Align existing country processes and the BR.