PIC: A cross-section of media practitioners and press attaches of the AU from over 20 African countries are meeting in Lusaka Zambia
The fourth estate is an important player in African development. This is the realisation that the African Union (AU) Department for Rural Economy and agriculture is reaping from it.
With that, a cross-section of media practitioners and press attaches of the AU from over 20 African countries are meeting in Lusaka Zambia to brainstorm on how to improve agricultural sector communication.
At the centre of debate is the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development (CAADP) and the Malabo Declaration, two significant items on the continental agenda.
CAADP is a continental programme that was initiated by the African Union with the overall goal to "Help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development, which eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity, and enables expansion of exports."
This programme was endorsed by Heads of State in July 2003 in the city of Maputo, Mozambique.
The declaration that followed, the Malabo Declaration is a set of commitments that Heads of State and Governments in Africa adopted at the African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014.
These commitments, which are expected to be fully realised by 2025, include, among other aspects, raising the focus on the implementation of the CAADP, ending hunger in Africa by 2025 and increasing budgetary allocations to agriculture in all member states to at least 10%.
This breakdown was given by Komla Bissi, a Coordinator of the CAADP from the AU Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture defined the two priority items in his opening remarks to the meeting.
Focus on the decades
As the journalists and experts engage each other more, focus will also be put on assessing the progress that African countries have made in realising the commitments that were made more than 10 years ago under the 2003 declaration in Maputo and also put a spotlight on the role of the media and experts in agricultural communication on the road to 2025, the target year.
Why focus on the economy is timely
This meeting comes at a time where Africa is still spending over $50b on importing food every year due to low capacity in local production, as noted by Komla Bissi.
As it stands, the 2016 World Bank reports on global progress show Africa as one of the fastest growing regions.
The reports, however, indicate a slowdown in Africa's growth to 3% in 2015, down from 4.5% in 2014, which the bank notes as the weakest pace in the continent's growth since 2009.
This is a concern that was re-echoed by a number of journalists from different countries on Wednesday as a factor that should guide the search for a workable strategy.
The three-day meeting, according to the AU's Carol Jilombo is meant to orient the participants on result-oriented communication.
"We need to have effective communication that can be understood by not only the policy makers but also our biggest stakeholders, the famers. People in media should be part of influencing the change that we want to see," Jilombo says.