By Tsitsi Makombe Last in a series of blog posts on the release of the 2020 Annual Trends and Outlook Report (ATOR) during the virtual 2020 ReSAKSS Annual Conference Nov. 3–5. The theme of the 2020 ATOR is "Sustaining Africa’s Agrifood System Transformation: The Role of Public Policies." Read the other posts here, here, here, and here. Transforming agrifood systems provides the best opportunity for achieving the Malabo Declaration goals of ending hunger and malnutrition, reducing poverty, and enhancing the resilience of agricultural production systems and livelihoods. This kind of transformation is a complex undertaking in which policy choices play a critical role, as they have to constantly adapt to a changing global landscape, the complexity of local economies, and the challenges and opportunities posed by economic and climate shocks as...

The rapid proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) offers great promise for transforming smallholder agriculture in Africa. Going beyond the narrow view of “technologies” as a tool, the broader concept of “digitalization” is a potential game changer. Building climate resilience for smallholder farmers to boost productivity; improving access to financing for all stakeholder groups to increase profitability along the value chain; and addressing social inclusion gaps for youth, women, and other marginalized groups are some of the areas that digitalization can be effectively deployed in building more efficient food systems....

Food safety has never featured prominently on Africa’s development agenda. When it is an issue, typically the focus has been on high-value food items produced for export, while food safety in domestic markets has been largely neglected, both by governments and development partners. This must change. Recent research has shown that the health and economic consequences of foodborne diseases in Africa are significant and growing, as urbanization and income growth prompt dietary changes that increasingly expose consumers to food safety hazards....

Africa’s rural transformation is hampered by the difficulties and missed opportunities farmers face in accessing markets. Many of these problems can be traced to farmers’ individual struggles—i.e., a lack of economies of scale—in consistently procuring inputs and marketing their outputs. Collective action mechanisms such as producer organizations could facilitate smallholders' access to input and output markets....

Africans have always recognized the importance of farm mechanization. Many who have grown up in rural areas have, at some point, worked on a farm or watched others do so, and know firsthand the back-breaking labor involved. Mechanical power that can provide relief from such drudgery has always been desired and appreciated....