THE AU-EU INNOVATION AGENDA STAKEHOLDER EVENT NAIROBI, 23-24 NOVEMBER, 2022
Nowadays, Africa and Europe are facing common challenges such as green transition and clean energy access, sustainable growth and job creation, and digital transformation and they have the ambition to address them together. These are stemmed from a common history that has been marked by geopolitical crises and societal challenges.
Nevertheless, to ensure the success of this AU-EU collaboration, both continents must consider themselves equal partners with mutual benefits, especially because some challenges (such as climate change) affect Africa the most. These two continents have adopted several policy frameworks outlining the cooperation notably between the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU).
This brought organizations and partners from the two continents to converge for two days, 23rd and 24th November at Movenpick Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya for the joint AU-EU Innovation Agenda Stakeholder Event to deliberate on new areas of synergy, which will foresee the continents moving forward.
BACKGROUND The joint AU-EU Innovation Agenda is an initiative aiming to accelerate the translation of Research and Innovation into a tangible positive impact on the ground, so as to generate products, services, businesses and jobs, in Africa and Europe. Its new ambition is to reach concrete impacts on the ground. It proposes four objectives, articulated into short-term, medium-term and long-term actions, for each of the four priority areas of the AU-EU cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation, namely (i) Public Health, (ii) Green Transition, (iii) Capacities for Science and (iv) Innovation and Technology], as well as for (v) Cross-cutting issues.
OBJECTIVES OF THE FORUM This Stakeholder Event was aimed to provide a forum to:
Present and discuss the findings of the online public consultation on the AU-EU Innovation Agenda (which took place between February and June 2022).
Discuss specific stakeholder demands and ideas, and possible implementation routes for the Agenda, so as to co-create its implementation plan.
Showcase the AU and EU vibrant innovation ecosystems, in the form of a matchmaking the session entitled “AU-EU Innovation Fair – Meet the Innovators”, to catalyze partnerships and foster collaborations and entrepreneurship.
Provide strategic training and information sessions focused on topics of particular relevance to the implementation of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda.
There were eight thematic workshops for the event and we were invited to present under Thematic Workshop 2 – Green Transition: Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA). Its nexus was:
I. Medium-term Actions 1. Fostering digital applications and green technologies for agro-ecological production, healthy and sustainable food processing and consumption. II. Long-term Actions 1. Improving the agricultural innovation ecosystem to co-invest in start-ups and agro-SME
FSPN-Africa, being key in the green transition and particularly the fight against hunger was represented by Ms. Sharon Chacha (Program Manager) and Mr. Hamis Said (Project Officer) who presented a detailed overview on the Digital Agricultural Africa (DAA project) aimed to eliminating contact across food systems and agriculture supply chains with digital aids to curb food and nutrition security.
In the report, presented in slide format, Mr. Hamis outlined the goals of the project and especially in enhancing the involvement of youth and women in the fight against hunger.
He also added a summation of the achievements of the organization in achieving goals by providing forth statistical presentation of the numbers of Smallholder Farmers that have been registered and trained under the DAA project.
Over 4,000 Farmers were registered and trained
The testimonials of members in the society who have benefitted from the training and who are now creating an impact on their livelihoods through improved nutrition were highlighted, which were positive feedback.
He also hinted at the next steps for the youth and women entailing innovations, which, essentially, are incorporated in the DAA Phase 2 project. They embrace
(1) Lead-farmer approach and self-digital service.
(2) Nutrition-sensitive agriculture.
(3) Carbon credits.
Essentially, this will lead to increased adoption of digitally-enabled agricultural extension services amongst smallholder farmers and thereafter increased agricultural productivity and returns from supported smallholder farmers. This will improve food and income security amongst smallholder farmers in Africa.
OUTCOME FROM THE EVENT
Though announced at short notice, the dialogue event in Nairobi attracted about 300 participants from Europe and Africa. The participants informed themselves, exchanged ideas, and networked for two days. The hybrid event reached another 100 interested people online.
On the mission towards green transitioning of Africa, fostering digital applications and green technologies was key to giving impetus to agro-ecological production, healthy and sustainable food processing and consumption, and by codesigning with food system actors to scale digital solutions for production, processing and marketing to support sustainable and agroecological transition.
Steps are to be taken to develop in Africa’s renewable fuels in a changing world for climate change mitigation. It also came out loud that improving the agricultural innovation ecosystem was key to strengthening the capacities of the actors to build, including research organizations, co-design and scale technology and innovation through multi-stakeholder approaches.
This will build thematic networks in Africa and strengthen relationships for exchanges of knowledge and experiences between Europe and Africa. Nonetheless, it will see co-investing in start-ups and agro-SME ecosystems, and most importantly to enhance capacity for proactive innovation policy development.
The presentation by Mr. Hamis also received a warm welcome from the majority of the member participants present as it portrayed clarity on the way forward in the fight against hunger.
We were excited to share platforms, especially in the breakout brainstorming sessions, where several organizations brought forward their interest in future partnerships with FSPN Africa. Amongst them are: Steinbeis Europa Zentrum, No Taka from Tanzania and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa(FARA).
The increase of non-EU countries in the eligibility criterion offers additional funding opportunities for organizations to build EU-funded projects at the international level.
This is critical in our lease of knowledge, expertise and resources available to make better products and increase reach out to more beneficiaries.
CONCLUSION The aforementioned actions will be integrated into an operational framework in a stepwise and flexible approach, that will allow for timely review and the implementation of the outcome. This will provide opportunities to correct or redirect the implementation on a solid evidence-based backing. The results of the dialogue event will be used to make the final version of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda. This version should be ready by early 2023 to be adopted at the AU-EU Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology, and Innovation, which will be held later in 2023.