Opening remarks by Minister Martijn van Dam at AU-EU conference investing in a Food secure Future

Opening remarks by Minister Martijn van Dam at AU-EU conference investing in a Food secure Future, 6 juli 2016

Excellency’s, ladies and gentlemen,

A great welcome to you all. It feels good to see you here in such great numbers. It is a landmark event; we are making history, not for ourselves but for our youth and future generations. We have to aim for a food secure future for them.

And together we can. As leaders in agriculture within the African Union and the European Union we can pave the way.

Not with new declarations, not with new agreements but with action on the ground.

It is a bitter irony and a paradox that Africa is spending 35 billion dollar each year to import to feed its people. Investing in Africa’s agricultural transformation makes both economic and moral sense.

More than 330 million African children, woman and men live in extreme poverty. The AU and EU members together can make the difference.

And I am proud to say that the last one and a half day you clearly showed us opportunities and possibilities.

As ministers it is up to us to make it happen by clearly showing commitments, not just by words but by concrete actions.

Excellency’s, ladies and gentlemen,

You will be briefed in more detail later about the results so far but I think we can easily conclude that hard work has been done and we may consider this a bountiful harvest up till now.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must change a feeling in Europe around African agriculture. African agriculture employs two thirds of the population and accounts for nearly a quarter of the GDP.

Agriculture is not just a way of life, but it's also a business. Businesses that will help countries to diversify their economies, reduce their dependency on food import, create jobs and revive rural areas.

As mentioned, some very important subjects have been discussed. We have to make commitments to actions in the field of climate smart agriculture, reducing food losses and waste, improving market access and accelerate private investment into agriculture in Africa.

But I am also encouraged by the concreteness of the ideas. There is a loud call for action. I am challenged by the idea of setting up a network of incubators across Africa to stimulate agricultural innovation.

I have seen with my own eyes two weeks ago in Kenia and Tanzania, examples of new smart technology. I have seen a mobile device for soil testing. I have seen climate smart potatoes. I have seen new locally adapted varieties of African eggplant developed. There is a lot that can be done.

The future is less and less based on the past. And new disruptive technologies emerge that require new business models and new ways of thinking.

I am convinced that setting up innovation incubators and field labs in agriculture will bring about more new relevant techniques and innovations for the development of agriculture in Africa. And that is why I want to kick start this idea by committing on behalf of the Netherlands government as a start to set up two to four incubators. And I hope you will follow by example. We will work with relevant parties and existing examples to further expand the network of incubators all over Africa.

I was told that one of the panelists has calculated that two incubators per country could create 72.000 jobs in the country! Moreover, it also will be very beneficial to another cross cutting theme of this conference. And that is to attract more youth into agriculture. Without creating an appealing environment for the youth to become active in agriculture, the future will look a lot less bright

Furthermore, The Netherlands will support the idea of joint action around setting up an AU-EU multi stakeholder round table on food security and nutrition, focused on implementing concrete actions on the five areas of cooperation.

Excellency’s, ladies and gentlemen,

We need many more commitment from all of you.

Let us not forget, for the first time, agricultural policy makers and stakeholders from Africa and Europe have met in this setting.

And during coffee brakes, lunches, dinners and evenings in the bar you could witness lively discussions between people that may have otherwise not met. New partnerships and above all new friendships are within reach.

So that is also a reason why I would very much like to see to make this into a regular one or two year event delivering concrete results and new partnerships.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Commissioners Ms Tumusiime and Mr. Hogan for their leadership, their enthusiasm and for co-hosting this event.

Colleagues,

As the Kuria people say. One person is a thin porridge; two or three people are a lump of ugali. Together, Africa and Europe can make a significant contribution to invest in a food secure future for Africa.

Thank you