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African leaders invited to G-8 Summit talks on food security

BoniYayiZenawiMelesMillsJohnKikweteJakaya
From left, Yayi Boni, Meles Zenawi, John Mills and Jakaya Kikwete

President Barack Obama has invited African leaders to join the G-8 Summit at Camp David on May 19 for a discussion on accelerating progress towards food security in Africa, the White House announced today.

The African leaders who have been invited to participate:
  • Chairman of the African Union and President of Benin Yayi Boni
  • Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia
  • President John Mills of Ghana
  • President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania

Obama, the other G-8 leaders and the African leaders are expected to discuss a follow up to the 2009 L’Aquila Food Security Initiative that the G-8 leaders signed following the 2008 food price spikes that caused alarm about food availability in the developing countries. Under that agreement, countries agreed to provide both more food aid and agricultural development assistance to the poorest countries in the world.
Neil Watkins, Action Aid

Neil Watkins
Neil Watkins of ActionAid said that Obama has invited the presidents of countries that have lived up to pledges they made at an African Union meeting in 2003 to increase growth in agriculture and to increase their agriculture spending.

Under the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program, countries develop a development strategy that is peer reviewed and put their own money into implementing it on the assumption that they will also get money from foreign donors. Watkins said the presidents of all the invited countries have gone through “all the steps” in the process.

“It is good at a basic level that the G-8 are talking about launching a new initiative to follow up the L’Aquila initiative,” Watkins said in an interview. “We hope that beyond a short session and meet-and-greet that civil society and farmers organizations can be a part of this plan.”

Watkins added that he fears that the emphasis G-8 leaders are putting on private sector development may mean less government assistance.

“Given the fiscal climate we are in, we still need to meet the case for the public investment,” he said, adding that the public sector does a better job of reaching small farmers, particularly female farmers in developing countries.

Ellen Levinson, Alliance for Global Food Security

Ellen Levinson
Ellen Levinson of the Alliance for Global Food Security also praised the invitations.

“Who is better able to discuss the challenges to food security than an African leader who is tackling hunger and agricultural development head on?,” Levinson said in an email. “By inviting African leaders to the G-8 summit, President Obama has shown deep resolve to ending hunger and promoting development.”