A private sector-led drive to contribute to a 'Green Revolution' in Africa took a step forward last week with the agreement of a "very clear action plan" to draw the continent out of its food crises.
The plan was drawn up at the first meeting of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), in Accra, Ghana, which claims that, by including detailed mechanisms for monitoring and review, it will avoid the fate of other plans that have not achieved what they hoped for in Africa.
"This is the first time we have laid out a very clear action plan on what needs to accelerate the pace of the Green Revolution in terms of technologies, policies, finance and infrastructure investments," Akin Adesina, vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and executive co-producer of the AGRF, told SciDev.Net.
"This was not a conference, it was not a workshop, it was a 'doing-shop'."
He added: "You cannot have a [green] revolution if you don't have a larger constituency supporting the move. What we were able to achieve in Accra was to have a huge group of stakeholders saying yes, Africa can and should end its food crisis."
The forum, which met last week (2–4 September), is an outcome of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's challenge to the private and public sectors to contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Adesina said that the forum will hold a series of in-country workshops with all relevant partners to review the tasks they have committed to. It has already set up a sub-committee to produce indicators for measuring progress.
And the forum will also work with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to monitor the extent to which the areas being worked on at country level are feeding into the roundtable processes of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme — a NEPAD initiative that deals with agricultural policy and capacity-building issues, and is aiming for a six per cent growth rate in African agriculture by 2015.
"We will not relent on making sure we push all the people that need to be pushed to ensure that they deliver on what they say they have committed to," said Adesina.
He urged African countries to keep their promise, made in the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration, of allocating ten per cent of national expenditure to agriculture. Other sources of finance will be the private sector and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
Yvonne Pinto, director of the Agriculture Learning and Impact Network at the UK-based Institute of Development Studies, told SciDev.Net: "The good thing about the forum is [it shows] Africa is beginning to drive its own agenda. There's an appetite on the part of African governments to put money into [agriculture]."
But she questioned the extent to which the various stakeholders have committed to the enterprise. "The buy in to the statements — the kinds of which I have seen many times before — is lower than AGRA or AGRF may think.
"Monitoring and evaluation and open publication of this data will be key — the main challenge here is turning the rhetoric into reality," she added.