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Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa

Statement to the UN ECOSOC Special Event on the Food Crisis in Africa

Julie Howard
Executive Director, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa

New York, 27 October 2005

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Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Panel Members and Participants in this important Special Event on the Food Crisis in Africa:

I am the Executive Director of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, an independent US-Africa coalition founded in 2001 by then-President of Mali and now African Union Commission Chair Alpha Konarй; the Presidents of Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda; former USAID Administrator Peter McPherson, former Cong. Lee Hamilton, and Senator Robert Dole. The Partnership is today a broad coalition of public and private organizations advocating for more, and more effective, investment in Africa’s agriculture and rural sectors. Partnership members are committed to making significant and sustained progress on hunger and poverty through boosting incomes in the rural areas where 70% of Africa’s population lives and works.

We are very pleased to take part in this Special Event on the “Food Crisis in Africa” and to comment on the role of public and private partnerships in raising the level and effectiveness of investments in Africa’s agriculture and rural sectors.

My distinguished colleagues have laid out an important set of challenges for us over the coming year in meeting compelling humanitarian crises across Africa. What I would like to discuss is how we, as international partners, can work together better to ensure that we also devote enough effort and resources to averting future food crises, by addressing the important root causes of such failures today.

Level of assistance for agriculture and rural development in Africa

Last month the Partnership released the results of a Rockefeller Foundation-funded analysis of U.S. assistance for African agricultural development1. My colleague on that study, Michael Taylor of the University of Maryland, has also recently completed a broader study of OECD support for rural and agricultural development in developing countries.2

The good news emerging from both studies is the broad consensus that higher levels of growth-oriented investment in agriculture and rural development, including external assistance, are required to address rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, never before has the opportunity been so great to construct a foundation for sustainable economic growth in Africa. At their July 2003 African Union Summit in Maputo, African heads of state endorsed the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) developed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). They also pledged to allocate 10% of their national budgetary resources to agriculture based on their conclusion that “agriculture must be the engine for overall economic growth in Africa.” The United Nations has made eradication of extreme poverty and hunger the first of the Millennium Development Goals and called specifically for public investment in such areas as agricultural research, extension, and market infrastructure. USAID Administrator Natsios and other bilateral and multilateral agency leaders, including the new President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, have also strongly endorsed a renewed focus on agriculture-led economic growth strategies to combat poverty.

But there is a large gap between this policy-level embrace of agriculture-led economic growth in Africa and the actual investments to make it happen. Levels of growthoriented assistance lag badly behind recent increases in assistance for health and education. United States assistance to agriculture, for example, has grown only by an estimated 2% in real terms since 2000. The United States spent approximately $514 million in agricultural development assistance for Africa in 2004, compared to $459 million in 2000. By contrast, USAID Bureau for Africa health funding alone grew by 61% during the same period, from $295 million in 2000 to $474 million in 2004. And billions more have been pledged as part of the president’s five-year, $15-billion commitment to HIV/AIDS and other health initiatives.

The trend in OECD spending on agriculture and rural development worldwide is similar. While bilateral assistance from OECD countries grew by 74% from 2000-03 and absolute agriculture-related ODA gained by 20%, the share of agriculture-related assistance in overall development assistance actually declined, from 13% to 9%. By contrast, healthrelated bilateral ODA for LDCs grew by 115% in the same period and ODA for education increased by 77%.

While increased expenditures for health and education are important, agricultural development cannot be allowed to drop off the radar screen. Food, health and education are all high priorities and highly interdependent. Without adequate food, people will never be healthy and children will not be prepared to learn. And without growing their rural economies, African nations will always be reliant on external assistance to sustain their health and education systems.

There is a critical need for partners to be much more aggressive on the issues of funding levels, and the balance of assistance for social services relative to economic growth. We must be more effective in engaging our respective finance, foreign affairs ministries and aid agencies to spell out the consequences of neglecting to invest in Africa’s broad-based economic growth. This includes the increasingly possible scenario of an accelerating cycle of food shortages and humanitarian crises that will continue to sap African lives and spirits along with the continent’s economic potential.

  1. Investing in Africa’s Future: U.S. Agricultural Development Assistance for sub-Saharan Africa by Michael R. Taylor and Julie A. Howard. September 2005. Executive Summary and Full Report may be downloaded at

  2. Making Aid Effective for the World’s Rural Poor: Progress, Obstacles, and Seven Hard Choices by Michael R. Taylor (in draft). Contact: .

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