Photo credit: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf

Nearly ten years after Africa’s leaders reiterated their “resolve to ending hunger and improving nutrition,” there is still much to be done in the fight against an unprecedented continental food crisis.

The meeting of our leaders in Addis Ababa at the African Union Summit this month, therefore, takes place against dire, if not entirely unprecedented, circumstances.

For instance, my own country of Sierra Leone is among the most exposed to the escalating impacts of climate change. These changes in the climate – from unpredictable rainfall to rising temperatures – disrupt agricultural yields and food systems at large.

These challenges arise at a critical time when over 50 percent of the households in Sierra Leone are grappling with food insecurity, making them highly susceptible to any additional disturbances in food supply chains. Concurrently, the depreciation of our currency has amplified our national debt, constraining the government’s financial capacity to invest in effective solutions to address these challenges.

Despite the hurdles, and by harnessing Africa’s new membership in the G20, our leaders can turn commitments into action, by removing global structural barriers hindering the fight against hunger and by transforming food systems across the continent.

To begin with, this means delivering on existing plans drawn up by continental leaders to tackle hunger and malnutrition challenges.

Agreements such as the 2014 Malabo Declaration and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), the Nairobi Declaration proposed at the 2023 Africa Climate Summit, and the Dakar Declaration agreed last year, demonstrate Africa’s strong legacy in building frameworks to address hunger and malnutrition. However, the actual implementation of these plans has frequently fallen short of expectations, highlighting a critical gap between ambitious policy formulation and effective action.


In light of this, African governments must allocate 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture and development to fulfill their commitment made under the CAADP to revive agricultural growth and address mounting food insecurity challenges, particularly amid changing climate conditions.

Africa’s small-scale farmers, despite being so vulnerable to climate-related risks, hold immense potential in feeding a growing population. Roughly 33 million smallholder farms contribute up to 70 percent of the continent’s food supply yet receive just a fraction of the finance needed to adapt to a changing climate. Hence, funding should ensure that they are not left behind in addressing the escalating issue of hunger on the continent.

And while 10 percent seems a large figure, the ripple effects of such an investment would extend far beyond merely combating hunger and malnutrition. Better nutrition is essential for improving access to and the quality of education, which is the focus of this month’s AU meetings. By addressing hunger, Africa can improve education for our next generation, while providing a viable pathway to lift communities out of poverty.

Secondly, Africa’s leaders must actively seek much-needed global collaboration to address food insecurity while securing relief from mounting debt burdens.

Having permanently joined the G20, the African Union must capitalize on this year’s meetings to drive concerted global efforts to address hunger, particularly by relieving the continent’s pressing debt burden to redirect funds towards urgent humanitarian needs and to make investments to boost sustainable economic growth.

President Lula of Brazil, who assumed the presidency of the G20 for this year, is a noted ally in the fight against hunger. Recognized for his efforts with the World Food Prize in 2011, he has already expressed his commitment to establishing an Alliance against poverty and hunger. This is welcomed – we urgently need a consolidated global effort – a ‘plan’ to drive the fight to end hunger for good.


Africa’s hunger levels are also inextricably linked to a deteriorating fiscal landscape. In Sierra Leone, consumer inflation stands at more than 20 percent, while government debt is more than 80 percent of our country’s GDP, vastly limiting the ability of citizens and the government to navigate the unprecedented food crisis.

African leaders must therefore use the AU Summit to set the tone for the rest of the year, placing the global food crisis at the top of their international agenda. This also includes this year’s COP29 climate talks, given that 17 out of the 20 countries most threatened by climate change are in Africa and considering the impact of climate change on food systems and nutrition.

Thirdly, in moving to tackle food insecurity across the continent, Africa’s leaders must adopt a holistic, “all of government” approach if we are to make progress by the end of the decade.

Our food systems present a complex web of challenges: in addition to being a source of nutrition and livelihoods, food production is a primary source of environmental destruction, causing up to 90 percent of deforestation and around a quarter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally.

To balance the trade-offs between boosting productivity and preserving the environment, governments must adopt a holistic approach, recognizing the impact of food systems transformation beyond hunger levels alone. In Sierra Leone, the Presidential Council led by H.E President Bio brings together government officials, farmers, researchers, and civil society members, and serves as a pivotal platform for navigating the complex trade-offs in the battle to end hunger.

Africa’s leaders have laid down a substantial framework over recent decades for addressing hunger and malnutrition on the continent. Now, given that a third of the world’s youth will be African by 2050, they must build on this legacy with bold action to save lives now, build resilience and secure a prosperous and sustainable future for the upcoming generations.