The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has called on African countries to create trading opportunities and increase investment in agriculture to address food security in Africa.
In a speech read on her behalf at the 8th Africa Agribusiness and Science Week (AASW8) in Durban, Dr Okonjo-Iweala noted that one-fifth of Africa’s population continues to face hunger despite being “a continent with the world’s largest reserved arable land.”
Receiving the FARA leadership award for her contributions to agricultural science, technology, and innovation in Africa, the laureate explained that various governments need to take steps “to reinforce the provision of public goods”.
This can be done by “improving the availability of extension and advisory services, investing in research, promoting access to technology, science and innovation, and improving infrastructure in rural areas”, she noted.
Highlighting the need for trade integration through AfCFTA, she said that “trade can connect producers and consumers across the [African] continent and beyond. It can also help to improve agricultural productivity and create jobs in rural areas”.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala in recounting a waiver of export restrictions on food that is bought by the World Food Programme, applauded WTO members as this will “make it easier for the agency to provide life-saving assistance to people facing humanitarian emergencies.”
Also, its members for the first time ever “agreed to the declaration of food security which underscores the importance of minimizing trade distortion as far as possible and highlights in particular airport restrictions on food”.
“As many African countries import more food than they export, this is critical in ensuring that poor consumers can continue to access food at affordable prices when sudden shorts occur.” she added.