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Publication | 2022

Recommendations on how to make R&I a driver for sustainable development in AU-EU relations


This policy study is authored by the Advisory Group (AG) on R&I for Africa-Europe cooperation commissioned by the European Commission´s Directorates-General for Research and Innovation and for International Partnerships.

The document presents the groups findings on how to best mainstream and boost R&I-cooperation with African partners in the field of (1) health, (2) R&I capacities, (3) technology and innovation and (4) green transition.

It discusses the state of play of each topic and highlights the key findings and recommendations for strengthening the cooperation, including concrete recommendations for future actions.

As regards to food and nutrition security and food systems, the reports stress the following:

  • The root cause of societal challenges and the main obstacle to the green transition in Africa is the lack of healthy soil. Africa ranks lowest in the Global Food Security Index and suffers from an alarming rate of land and environmental degradation.

  • African economies and lives are heavily dependent on agriculture, especially in the lower income countries. Healthy soils provide a range of ecosystem services that can help address many of their challenges. Developing sustainable, profitable and inclusive agriculture that ensures healthy soils, is therefore central to resolving societal challenges, transforming food systems and supporting the green transition in Africa. Developing this type of agriculture will require an in-depth knowledge of how to deal with the rather contrasting edaphoclimatic conditions in Africa, especially the largest pool of old and naturally poor soils found all around sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Changing weather patterns have been exposing agricultural systems to more intense biotic and abiotic stresses. Outbreaks of pests and diseases, and more frequent periods of high temperatures and drought, have been increasingly threatening food security and leading to land degradation, especially desertification.

  • To ensure food security for its own population and to help feed the world, agricultural productivity in Africa must double in the coming decades. Agricultural intensification is therefore imperative, not only to produce more food per area (increase in productivity) but also to secure non-farmlands and restrict further deforestation and the inclusion of natural habitats for agriculture or other anthropogenic activities.

  • Urban areas represent 40% of the total population, 50% of total food consumption and 60% of the food market. Urbanisation is widening the consumer base and benefiting African food producers.

  • Accounting for the true cost of food is one of the most important actions in Africa’s green transition, enabling it to build nature-positive and sustainable food systems.

Existing AU-EU cooperation

The AU-EU R&I partnership on food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture addresses the challenges set out in SDG 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, by stimulating joint AU-EU R&I activities for an initial period of 10 years. The partnership so far has channelled a joint investment of €381 million on four priorities: (1) sustainable intensification of agriculture, (2) agriculture and food systems for nutrition (3) expansion and improvement of agricultural trade and markets and (4) cross-cutting topics.

The long-term AU-EU R&I partnership food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture (LEAP4FNSSA) is a key element in achieving these goals. The focus areas support implementation of the following African and European policy frameworks of the EU Green Deal, comprehensive strategy for Africa, STISA 2024 and comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme. For the future trajectory, the FNSSSA platform is conceptualising an international research consortium.

Of all the projects involving the top 10 participating African countries, food security received the highest allocation €501,929,229.25 with only € 10,927,586.47 going to the participating African countries. This was followed by agriculture at € 260,327,943.70, climate management € 79,133,346.39, public health € 76,572,408.75, water management € 52,735,335.40, internet of things and big data € 40,233,296.30 and digital innovation ecosystem € 35,006,220.70.