Agricultural and food systems in Africa are strongly challenged by economic, social, environmental and political drivers that influence their functioning and performance. Climate change, population growth and urbanisation exert a strong pressure on resource availability and management for food production. Local productivity is often low and raw materials are sold or exported as low value added products, while at the same time food imports increase - including high value added products. This puts both African producers and consumers in vulnerable economic conditions.
There is an urgent call for innovation at different scales and levels of intervention within African food systems across the whole value web. Innovation should focus on improvement of environmental and nutritional performance of food systems, while guaranteeing economic and business viability for the stakeholders involved, as well as social and gender equity across different groups of population.
In a context characterised by a rapidly growing youth population, it is important to consider the great potential of business and technological innovation, including the creation of new employment opportunities and generation renewal in the agricultural and food sectors.
An important part is innovation and development of the local food industry in Africa, including those success stories of innovation that are inspiring examples to enhance the sustainability of food systems, from niches to larger scales of intervention. Value should be added to local produce through local models and products, developing an African food industry, rather than copying western standards of intensive farming, which has proven detrimental to both environment and animal wellbeing. What locally relevant solutions and opportunities can be innovated?
The key goals for innovation in the food system, in order to support transformation include:
- Improving market access, to connect smallholder farmers to local, regional, and international markets through a number of means, while complying with trade regulations
- Enhancing investments in the application of certification and standards, and addressing food safety and animal welfare.
- Minimizing food losses during production, storage and transport as well as food waste by retailers and consumers.
- Considering socio-economic, equity and gender implication to build more sustainable value chains within changing food systems.
- Developing and using information technologies and digitalization to achieve the above-mentioned goals.