Efforts by the African Union (AU) to bring to the forefront, the Africa food safety agenda, have been boosted following commitments by a group of food safety experts in the continent.
Members of the food safety community, predominantly, focal points of National Committees on Codex Alimentarius in AU member states committed to support the Africa food safety agenda programmes, particularly, the Africa Food Safety Index (AFSI), an information and data gathering tool on food safety.
The African group forms part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) with responsibility for setting food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to ensure food safety among others.
In recognizing the important role the Codex group plays in food safety, the AU through its programme, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control Africa (PACA), in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRF), and FAO organised a three-day workshop themed: “Strengthening Food Safety Capacity for Reporting in the Biennial Review”, to strengthen the experts network for the implementation of the AFSI in gathering data and information on food safety.
The meeting focused on building capacity for member states on how data from AFSI will be integrated with the Biennial Review (BR), a monitoring and evaluation tool adopted by the AU, to assess how member countries are implementing the 2004 Malabo Commitments by African leaders, to revolutionize agriculture in the continent. The BR is presented to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in the form of a score card called “Africa Agricultural Transformation Scorecard (AATS)”. The maiden report was presented to the Assembly of Heads of States and Government in 2018, however, lacking the food safety element.
Dr Amare Ayalew, Programme Manager for PACA, observed that AFSI is an important step to generate home-grown credible evidence on food safety in Africa, adding that if properly implemented, it could develop into a bigger platform like “Food Safety Information System for Africa”. He encouraged participants to prioritize data generation to promote evidence-based food safety policies and actions.
Mr. Piet Visser, Team Leader, Agribusiness and Value Chain (CTA), stressed the importance of the AFSI to the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and food systems. He expressed optimism that the inclusion of data from the AFSI that the BR-AATS, would stimulate countries to make the required investments in food safety, an intervention, he said, CTA would be proud to associate with.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Mr Fredy Chinyananhu, a member of the Zimbabwe National Committee on Codex Alimentarius expressed the commitment of members to ensure that the objectives of the AFSI are achieved. He noted the meeting had generated a lot of interest in the AFSI and built the capacity of members to appreciate the importance and value of the AFSI to food safety in the continent.
The Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods was adopted by African Union Heads of State and Government in June 2014 at the 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly. It commits leaders to a set of actions that will accelerate agricultural growth and transformation across Africa. The Declaration was a recommitment to the principles and values of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as well as additional commitments and targets for results and impact.