The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the African Union Commission (AUC), the Southern African Development Community and an inclusive gathering of regional private sector stakeholders successfully launched the Annual Agri-Invest Roundtable (the Roundtable) as a “pre-event” of the African Agri Council’s 2019 African Agri-Investment INDABA Investment inaugural.
Selected participants in the Roundtable dialogue included the African Development Bank, SilverStreet Capital, Zambeef, the Export Trading Group (ETG), the Dairy Farmers of South Africa, the Industry Association of Angola, the Southern Africa Grain Network, the Botswana Meat Commission, Africa Business Group, the Southern Africa Business Development Forum, the Confederation of Business Associations of Mozambique, the Zambia National Farmer’s Union, the Bakhresa Group’s Omar Packaging Industry’s Ltd., Community Markets for Conservation, CDH Investment Bank Limited, and Ecokaya Holdings. Youth agripreneurs were also active participants in the dialogue and were represented by the founders of ZamGoat (Zambia), Lakeshore Agro Processing Enterprise (Malawi), Amicus Zambia Ltd. (Zambia), Rejanala Farmers and Projects (South Africa), and Bontlez Rentals (South Africa). Several SADC Member States were also represented by government representatives, including Directors and representatives, Industry and Commerce from Ministry of Agriculture from Angola and representatives from Government of Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.
As an important component of the implementation strategy of the SADC Regional Agricultural Investment Plan and the regional economic community’s efforts to develop an Agricultural Development Fund, this meeting was conceptualize with the assistance of FAO Southern Africa to facilitate dialogue with, and feedback from, the region’s agricultural private sector. Furthermore, the Roundtable platform also presented FAO with an opportunity to unpack the FAO AgrInvest Program for both SADC stakeholders and regional private sector actors.
As the SADC Secretariat nears the operationalization of the Agriculture Development Fund and through this effort to accelerate the implementation of the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan toward catalysing deeper and more inclusive regional agricultural value chains, the aim of the Roundtable was also to establish a community of private sector stakeholders in the region who can continually engage with SADC and FAO to provide feedback, inputs, support and resources (including investment) toward the delivery of the aims of the RAIP, ADF and the FAO AgrInvest Programme.
“A critical aspect of achieving sustainable agricultural transformation in the region involves strengthening and developing key institutions that can serve as the foundation for development in the sector. Supporting the development and growth of such institutions is the core focus of the AgrInvest Programme” explained Alain Onibon, Subregional Coordinator and FAO Representative to Eswatini and Zimbabwe .
Adding to this message, Domingos Gove, Director, Food, Agriculture and National Resources Directorate, SADC, explained to the delegates that “As we [SADC] have not had many occasions to engage with the regional private sector before, we greatly appreciate FAO’s assistance in helping us start this dialogue and begin the formation of this community of practice, with whom we will be able to engage and collaborate as we roll out our Regional Agriculture Investment Plan implementation plans and finalize the operational modalities of our Agricultural Development Fund. In particular, we want the Fund to be a catalyst for deepened and more inclusive private sector value chains in the region and will need your input to ensure that it becomes the catalyst that we all want it to be.”
In response, Felix Lupinda, Head Corporate Affairs Retailing and Marketing, Zambeef, shared that “Zambeef has had extensive opportunity to trade and invest in the region (and beyond) and we will be happy to share more about the practical steps that we have taken to allow us to build our regional value chains, and to help identify policy and non-tariff impediments that we would hope could be address through the FAO AgrInvest Program, the SADC RAIP implementation activity and the operationalized SADC ADF”.
The Roundtable and the way forward
Recognizing that while the policy framework of the RAIP rests with SADC, successful implementation will only happen if the SADC RAIP, the FAO AgrInvest Program and the National Agriculture Investment Plans are aligned, the delegates vowed to focus on pushing for national adoption of the FAO AgrInvest framework and sought to use the 2020 Roundtable as a benchmark of progress and an opportunity for a report back on progress made over the previous 12 months. Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia were identified as some of the countries in the region who potentially could become case studies and role models for the other SADC member states as they were already on their way to developing the AgrInvest programs, aligning their NAIPs with the RAIP and encouraging public-private dialogue toward agricultural development and transformation at the national levels.
In between the inaugural Roundtable and next year’s Roundtable, the SADC Secretariat and FAO Subregional Office of Southern Africa committed to continue to engage the participants on an adhoc basis in a consultative way to ensure that all initiatives developed have input and the participation of the region’s private sector.
This article was originally published on FAO.