As Africa’s food systems face up to unprecedented Covid-19 supply disruption, AGRF’s Virtual Summit begins tomorrow in Rwanda under the theme ‘Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent’.

The virtual summit, which runs until Friday, brings together thousands of delegates from government, the private sector and research and development organisations at a time when Africa is dealing with the effect of lockdowns and border closures on already fragile food supply chains riven by climatic events.

Agriculture makes up 23% of the continent’s GDP and provides work for nearly 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s economically active population. Exports of food and agricultural products are worth between $35bn and $40bn a year, while some $8bn a year flows through intra-regional trade in agricultural products.

Since the onset of the crisis however, agricultural exports have faced demand disruptions and supply chain issues, while localised pricing spikes and market and logistical bottlenecks have been seen, according to McKinsey research. Logistics costs have spiked due to travel restrictions, border checks, curfews, staff shortages, and volume reductions. Extra demand-side pressure may worsen food insecurity as incomes dwindle and food prices increase. In Kenya, pricing for most food commodities was between 4 and 27% higher than at the same time last year.

That has complicated the agricultural picture on a continent already under severe pressure. East Africa’s ongoing locust infestations, low rainfall in parts of Southern Africa and unrest in South Sudan, northern Nigeria, and the Sahel have all weighed on productivity, although South Africa had recovered from earlier droughts to post strong harvests in 2019. As a result of the combined events, AGRF aims to spark discussion on how the continent’s food systems can deliver resilient, better-nourished and more prosperous African cities fed in part by Africa’s smallholder farmers. More than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population could be living in urban areas by 2050, posing huge challenges for food supplies to towns and cities.

Interviewed in African Business Magazine’s August/September issue, AGRF president Agnes Kalibata said that Covid-19 disruption had heavily impacted small and medium enterprises. Kalibata, who will serve as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, said that since the onset of the pandemic, Africa’s food systems had “begun to slowly pick up again, though very cautiously.” She noted that Covid-19 offers an opportunity for Africa to rethink its place in global agricultural supply chains to build better resilience and prepare for future disruption, two major themes of this year’s AGRF summit.

“It’s very interesting because there are major conversations really looking at supply chains, and for good reasons. People are worried that as Covid-19 continues to be a challenge we will need to shorten supply chains. It’s not just Africa, Europe is looking at it. In their case it’s more to do with reducing the carbon footprint of food. In Africa it’s more about building resilience.”

The first day of the summit will highlight this theme of resilience, while AGRF will launch a new report looking at how smallholder farmers can feed Africa’s cities and drive food security and rural prosperity. Other daily themes include nutritious food, building interconnected markets and boosting food systems.

For more information on this year’s AGRF Virtual Summit and its programme visit:,more%20prosperous%20outcomes%20for%20all.