Africa Day: Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent
Julie Kennedy/Anton van der Riet
Finally, Africa Day could once more be celebrated in person. The event took place on May 30th, 2022, at Diplomat Club Wassenaar – Kasteel De Wittenburg, in full vibrancy and colour. Guests were taken on a wonderful journey to this amazing continent through the vigorous music and dance, the crafts on display and the video showcasing the numerous beauties to be enjoyed. Even the sun seemed to be doing its best to honour Africa as guests enjoyed their meal in the castle grounds.
H.E. Mrs F.M. Irene Kasyanju, Ambassador of the Republic of Tanzania and Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps warmly welcomed the guests and in particular the Guest of Honour H.E. Mrs. Carola van Rijnsoever, Deputy Secretary General of the Dutch MFA, The Mayor of Wassenaar Mr Leendert de Lange and her fellow African Ambassadors, thanking them for their presence with a resounding Kiswahili Karibuni Sana!
“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”.
Ambassasor, H.E. Mrs F.M. Irene Kasyanju introduced the theme of Africa Day this year: 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” before stating: “This theme is not only critical to achieving the AU Agenda 2063 and transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future (…) but also offers an opportunity to boost intra-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area (…)
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.
Ambassador Kasyanju stressed furthermore in her speech that the way forward is through “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 the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) can play a major role” and also by reinforcing the paramount importance of African Unity as driving force forward.
H.E Mr. Hatem Abdelkader, the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt took the floor and reminded us that it was fifty-nine years ago, on 25th of May 1963, that the founding fathers established the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – then called Organization of African Unity, sowing the seeds of African unity, and launching a new era of African synergy which 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, 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, leading to a future driven by unity, self-determination, freedom, progress, and collective prosperity.
Moreover, and with this vision, we are pursuing our integration through our Regional Economic Communities and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the establishment in 2018 of “The African Continental Free Trade Area”. The free trade area – largest in the world in terms of number of participating countries since the formation of the WTO – shall deepen the economic integration of the continent and conduct to sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, gender equality, and structural transformations within African states”.
Ambassador Abdelkader announced that The African continent will host the 27th session of the Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) that will take place in Sharm Elsheikh, Egypt from 6-18 November 2022.
H.E. Mrs. Carola van Rijnsoever, Deputy Secretary-General of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted the growing, global interest in Africa this beautiful, diverse, and dynamic continent, by countries such as China, the USA, Russia, Turkey, and the Gulf States. She reiterated that the Netherlands places great importance on bilateral ties with African countries and that it has twenty-six embassies on the African continent.
She applauded the high-level participation, on both Europe and Africa’s part, in the EU-AU Summit held in Brussels in February this year. She stressed that the number of people facing food shortages has risen from 136 to 276 million in the last two years and that 20 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing famine. Indeed, that is a lot of people, more than the entire Dutch population, a deeply concerning fact, and we are all responsible for doing whatever we can to prevent it, she added.
Her Excellency van Rijnsoever noted that for many years now, the Netherlands has worked to help improve the food situation in Africa through food security programmes. But the current situation requires more she said, stating that “through short-term emergency aid we’re working together with you and the international community, including through the WFP and UNICEF, to get help to those who need it most. But it’s also vital to increase these regions’ resilience in the long term.
Through initiatives like drought-resistant seeds and crops and careful water management and use. And, in line with the outcomes of the Food Systems Summit held in 2021, we must also look at how the productivity and resilience of local food production systems can be increased. This is especially pertinent given our own experiences of food production in the Netherlands. Our country is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter. So, I believe we have a lot to offer Africa in this regard”.
She concluded that, by investing in shared interests like nutrition and food security and by working closely together to look for solutions to existing challenges, “we can achieve results. And it’s not only about financial investment, or investment in research. It’s also about investing in our relationship. The Netherlands, Europe and Africa are not distant acquaintances. We are close neighbours, and a changing global landscape is making this even clearer. Together, we can find answers to the challenges we all face”.
Her Excellency Mrs. Salima Abdelhak, Ambassador of Algeria then raised a toast on behalf of all African Ambassadors present, to the commemoration of Africa Day 2022.
Among the distinguished guests present were also Ambassador, Director-General of the OPCW H.E. Mr. Fernando Arias and the Managing Director of the Common Fund for Commodities, H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Belal and the Ambassador of Yemen and the Dean of the Arab Ambassadors, H.E. Mrs. Sahar Ghanem.
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