Friday, May 18, 2012

Today: President Obama Unveils Plan For Africa, 'New Alliance For Food Security And Nutrition'

The biggest effort in history: White House has 45 private-sector partners on board...
UPDATE: The transcript of the President's remarks
Ahead of the G8 Summit at Camp David in Maryland, President Obama will today unveil a new ten-year food security initiative for the African continent. It's designed to marry governments and the private sector for projects that will boost the output of smallholder farmers and allow the agriculture economy to thrive, thus raising 50 million people out of hunger and poverty, according to senior Administration officials. The President will announce the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition this morning in Washington, DC, during a 10:15 AM speech at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security.

The President's plan is “by far and away the biggest effort ever in history to bring private investment to African food security," said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"Nearly 45 private sector companies will make clear and concrete commitments to invest more than $3 billion in agricultural projects and programs that will help reach millions of small-scale farmers, most of whom are women," Shah said.

The New Alliance will be further discussed on Saturday during the G8, when the President and his fellow leaders are joined by the leaders of four African nations, invited to attend a session devoted to food security. They'll also be at this morning's Symposium.

The President's plan has three main points: Mobilizing capitol and access to markets; taking innovation to scale; and mitigating risks from things such as drought and other natural disasters, all designed to accelerate progress in agriculture development and infrastructure in ways that are specific to participating African countries, Shah said.

"A little less than half" of the private sector partners are African companies and entrepreneurs, Shah said, and the remainder are from around the world. Some are well known global giants, including PepsiCo, Monsanto, and Diageo. Others are smaller, such as Tanseed, a Tanzanian seed company that has committed to spend $11 million to buy certified seed and package it in small packets to meet the needs of smallholder farmers, Shah said.

The commitments "really do feel quite extraordinary," Shah said.

As important as the dollar amount, Shah added, is that the private sector can bring the kind of talent, cutting-edge technology, and innovation to agricultural projects that governments alone simply can't achieve.

“We are never going to end hunger in Africa without private investment,” Shah said.

The New Alliance is "the next phase" of the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative, said Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman. He added that the G8 has "for years" had an Africa outreach session, but "this year the President decided to focus the African outreach session on food security to highlight the importance of this issue in particular."

Led by President Obama, during a meeting in L'Aquila, Italy in 2009, G8 leaders agreed to invest $22 billion in agriculture projects, with a focus on infrastructure and other initiatives, rather than just giving food aid. 30 nations ultimately completed country plans with the World Bank's Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, and $21.1 billion has now been allocated or is on track to be allocated in the next 8-9 months, Shah said. The US created USAID's Feed the Future program for its own efforts in global food security, and participating countries have had eight times the progress of non-participating countries, he said.

On Saturday, the G8 will release an accountability report on the L'Aquila Initiative.

"It will be the most detailed ever put out by the G8, and it will demonstrate that by and large the countries have worked hard to meet their commitments," Froman said.

At Camp David and at the Symposium, President Obama will be joined by Yayi Boni, Chairperson of the African Union and President of Benin; Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia; President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; and President John Atta Mills of Ghana. Representatives from the private sector who are investing in agriculture will also be at Camp David for "a robust discussion" about the New Alliance and "what the G8 can do to support increased agricultural activity and growth in Africa," Froman said.

"We've laid out a series of streams of work and priorities for the G8 donors to focus on," Froman said. "Each country may emphasize one part more than another--and they may partner with countries in Africa with which they have historic ties."

To accelerate progress, the G8 will launch New Alliance Cooperation Frameworks that "align with priority activities within each partner’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) national investment plan." These include predictable funding commitments, specific policy actions, and statements of intent from the private sector. The G8 will partner with the African Union, New Partnership for Africa's Development and CAADP for implementation.

The New Alliance is supported by the World Bank and African Development Bank, the United Nations’ World Food Program, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Food and Agriculture Organization for the New Alliance.

The G8 Members are the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom. After his speech, President Obama will will hold a bilateral meeting for the first time with President Francois Hollande of France, at 11:00 AM in the Oval Office. He arrives at Camp David at 6:30 PM and will greet the leaders at 7:30 PM. A reception and working dinner will follow at 8:00 PM. Friday's schedule.

*The White House Fact Sheet on G8 action and the New Alliance.

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House