Africa Day 2022, Strength, Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security in Africa
By Roy Lie Atjam
On the Occasion of Africa Day 2022, H.E. Ms. Irene F. M. Kasyanju, Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania in the Netherlands and Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, organized a reception in Wassenaar on 31st May 2022.
Scores from the Africa diaspora in the Netherlands and beyond flocked in Wassenaar to celebrate this auspicious day with their brethren, friends and Africa well-wishers. The ambience was excellent.
The program featured speeches, cultural performances, videos, networking and showcasing of the savoury African cuisine.
It was the Moroccan group Gnawa that put on a cultural show. Gnawa is a cultural performance combining African, Arab-Muslim influences and native Berber cultural elements.
The Dean of the African group H.E. Ms. Irene F. M. Kasyanju, Ambassador of Tanzania, delivered the welcome address that went down well with the audience. Ambassador Kasyanju touched on the Ubuntu spirit, Agenda 2063, the Maputo Protocol, CFC* and other African aspects.
The guest of Honor, Her Excellency Ms.Carola van Rijnsoever, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote address.
In short, this is what she said, the growing, global interest in Africa the beautiful, diverse and dynamic continent, by countries like China, the USA, Russia, Turkey and the Gulf States. Van Rijnsoever explained that the Netherlands places great importance on bilateral ties with African countries. She applauded the high-level participation, of both Europe and Africa in the EU-AU Summit held in Brussels in February this year. “The Netherlands, Europe and Africa are not distant acquaintances. We are close neighbours. And a changing global landscape is making his even clearer. Together, we can find answers to the challenges we all face.”
Other speakers were the Ambassadors of Egypt H.E. Mr. Hatem Abdelkader on behalf of the African Unity Chair. A resume of his speech. “59 years ago, on the 25th of May 1963, the founding fathers established the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – then called the Organization of African Unity – that sowed the seeds of our African unity and launched a new era of African synergy trajectory to lay the foundation for continental integration. Our leaders walked their path and established the bridges for Africa to cross to stability, progress, and prosperity.
Today, we harvest the fruits of the efforts of our founding ancestors of the AU after following their steps in a persistent manner all over the past decades. Our continent walks steadily towards the realization of sustainable development and economic growth guided by Agenda 2063. Under this ambitious Agenda, our joint efforts are intensified to transform our continent into a future driven by unity, self-determination, freedom, progress, and collective prosperity.
The year 2022 is the “Year of Nutrition” in Africa to strengthen resilience and food security in the continent. This comes at a time when the threat of food shortages, inflation, and higher consumer prices are looming over the whole world including on our African continent. Here we are today celebrating our Africa day where the spirit of African synergy, profound cooperation and integration are the basis of our continent.
I wish you many happy returns where all the peoples of Africa around the globe are bound together and progressing in line with the vision of our founding fathers.
Long live Africa.!”
H.E. Ambassador Salima Abdelhak of Algeria closed the speeches and rendered the spirit of her fellow Ambassadors through a toast she raised to Africa stating: “Let’s raise a toast to our Mother Africa. May it Be peaceful, prosperous and integrated. May it be driven by its own citizens and May it be a dynamic force in the international arena. To the address of the Guest of honor the MFA Deputy Secretary General, she added “May the partnership Africa / Netherlands be consolidated and Prosperous”
Here is the speech as pronounced by the Dean Ambassador Irene Kasyanju.
“At the outset allow me to welcome you all, and particularly our Guest of Honour, and express my sincere gratitude for your participation in this commemoration of Africa Day 2022. As we say in Swahili Karibuni Sana!
Indeed, I am so delighted and excited to be here and to have finally being able to hold this event in person, after two years of online engagements due to COVID–19 pandemic. This year’s celebration is of particular importance to me as it marks the end of my tour of duty as the Ambassador of Tanzania to the Netherlands. A position I have happily served for over 6 and a half years. This could not have been possible without the unwavering support I received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Group Ambassadors, and the entire Diplomatic Corps fraternity. I do not have a better way to extend my appreciation to you than by saying “thank you so much”.
As we mark the celebration of Africa Day, let me first start by commending the workmanship and dedication of our Experts, whose tireless efforts to coordinate and plan for the past two months made this celebration possible. I thank them wholeheartedly!
On the same level, permit me to extend sincere gratitude to all African Ambassadors for their commitment, guidance, and material support in ensuring this august event become a success. I remain hopeful that, the strong gesture of true friendship and collaboration among the African States demonstrated during the preparation of this event, will continue to radiate in other occasions. This is the Ubuntu spirit we always cherish in Africa.
Africa Day which is celebrated each year on the 25th of May is an important date in the history of our continent as it commemorates the founding of the first Union of African countries (OAU) in 1963, which was later transformed into the current African Union (AU) in order to have a more stable and prosperous Africa. Therefore, we gather to remember that day and to reflect on how far we have gone, what has been achieved, and what needs to be done in the future in order to build the Africa We Want!
This year’s Africa Day Theme: “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agro-Food Systems, Health and Social Protection Systems for the Acceleration of Human, Social and Economic Capital Development” is of paramount importance and very pertinent.
The Theme is not only critical to achieving the AU Agenda 2063 and transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future, as envisioned by our Heads of State and Government; but also offers an opportunity to boost intra-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was operationalized in January 2021, and indeed showcase that Africa is the future the world has been waiting for. A continent in which more than half of the Earth’s arable land – roughly 600 million hectares – is located, should not suffer food insecurity or malnutrition. This year’s theme certainly offers an impetus in the pursuit of an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa.
Indeed, Africa is richly endowed with vast human and natural resources which, if harnessed in accordance with our vision, Agenda 2063, will improve the livelihoods of the peoples of Africa. A continent of 1.3 billion plus people, where 60% of our population is represented by our youth, below the ages of 25 and boast a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $ 2.6 trillion across our 55 Member States, if we move together in unity the ‘Africa We Want’, will not be an agenda but a reality.
Cognizance of this endowment, African countries made reasonable progress to align agricultural and other policies, programs, and investments related to food security and nutrition with the Zero Hunger Vision and SDG 2 which aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. However, such investment and the gains achieved seriously suffered during the Covid-19 crisis, affecting our health, food systems, and economies, causing children, women, and poor households to suffer the most.
African governments therefore need to enhance the mobilization of financial resources to invest in both food security and nutrition. We need to transform our agriculture and engage our youth and women in the sector for us to yield positive outcomes. African governments should live up to the commitments made in the Maputo Protocol to allocate 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development policy. This will ensure transformed agriculture through increased investment and agriculture productivity via irrigation and Agri – tech as well as value addition.
Plainly speaking, Africa needs strategic domestic and international partnerships to ensure access to international finance to fund African innovations and production for enhanced nutrition outcomes among our people. For us in the Netherlands, Institutions such as Common Fund for Commodities (CFC)* can play a significant role in relieving Africa from nutrition insecurity because CFC focuses on strengthening agro-food systems through investing in African Small Holders and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Our production systems must change and encourage value addition practices to our commodities and minerals and generate real value to boost income for people. We need to invest in food fortification and promote the consumption of nutrients rich food.
Africa Day is the moment to celebrate the richness of our continent in terms of culture, traditions, history, and more importantly our unity. That unity, among others, is evident in the UNESCO’s decision in November 2021 to set 7th July as the World Kiswahili language Day – the official day to celebrate the Kiswahili language; as well as February’s 2022 African Union’s Heads of State decision to approve Kiswahili, the Pan African language, as an official working language of the bloc. We need to promote this unifying language, spoken by over 100 million people in Africa, for the wider communication and implementation of AU Decisions.
Before I conclude, allow me to leave you with an inspirational quote by Tanzania’s founding Father Mwalimu Dr. Julius Nyerere, the driving force behind the movement and firm believer of promoting Kiswahili for African unity, in his speech given in Accra, Ghana, 6 March 1997, and I quote: “Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated”.
As I conclude, kindly accept my sincere gratitude to you all for participating in this commemoration of Africa Day 2022 here in The Hague. Let’s celebrate together the richness of our continent in terms of culture, traditions, and history. The ambiance around here testifies to that.
I wish you all a wonderful Africa Day 2022 celebration.” end quote
* CFC In a rare display of praise and acknowledgement of the sincere but innovative work of an international organization, the Dean of African Ambassadors in The Hague, H.E. Irene Kasyanju, Ambassador of Tanzania to the Netherlands, congratulated Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed Belal, Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), for their excellent work for the smallholders and SMEs in Africa and beyond. Ambassador Irene in her Africa Day 2022 welcome address stated that “For us in the Netherlands, Institutions such as Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) can play a significant role in relieving Africa from nutrition insecurity because CFC focuses on strengthening agro-food systems through investing in African Small Holders and Small and Medium Enterprises. Our production systems must change and encourage value addition practices to our commodities and minerals and generate real value to boost income for people. We need to invest in food fortification and promote the consumption of nutrients rich food”.
All attending participants acknowledged the above statement through their acclamation and individual felicitations to Ambassador Belal afterwards. It may be noted that CFC is the only UN- affiliated international organization in the Netherlands.