The powerful speeches at Davos on Wednesday from premiers Vladimir Putin of Russia and Wen Jiabao of China gave heavyweight backing for a new inclusive approach to tacking global problems.
The mood at Davos so far reflects recognition of the scale of the task ahead and also that business as usual is simply not an option. It’s encouraging that the so-called Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are demonstrating leadership on global issues.
And while the financial crisis, understandably, is top of the agenda here, I am pleased that its impact on developing nations is being discussed. We also need to ensure that other serious challenges are not forgotten.
Also Read Kofi Annan’s first two columns on Davos
These include the scandal that a billion people on our planet won’t have enough food to eat today. Food prices may have fallen from their frightening high last year. But this must not fool us into thinking the crisis has gone away. It hasn’t.
Nowhere is this truer than in Africa—a continent where food production per head has fallen over the last four decades. With the lowest use of fertilizer in the world, grain yields in Africa are a quarter of the global average. The result is misery for millions of families and a huge obstacle to the development of their countries.
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Also See Africa Progress Panel
A uniquely green revolution in agriculture, which tackles these long-term structural problems, is desperately needed to provide food security. This requires both greater public and private sector investment in agriculture. Several Asian and West Asian countries are already getting more involved.
The challenge is to ensure that local people and economies benefit as well as international investors.
We will all share in the rich prize for fixing agriculture in Africa—because it is one of the major keys to unlocking the continent’s potential—and enabling Africa to be part of the solution to the world’s challenges.
This is one of the main findings of a report the Africa Progress Panel is launching on Thursday, which highlights how Africa’s growth can help drive the global economy.
It also points to opportunities in energy and infrastructure and urges richer countries to keep their pledges to increased development aid to help African countries manage the impact of the global meltdown on their economies and people.
The real test is whether, at next year’s Davos meeting, we can point to concrete measures taken, which put into action the ideas and initiatives being proposed this week.
To download a copy of Africa: Preserving Progress at a Time of Global Crisis, go to www.africaprogresspanel.org
Kofi Annan is a former secretary general of the United Nations.
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