A limited number of cross-cutting themes unify the agenda and ensure that the research is context-relevant. The cross-cutting themes for the proposed ARUA CoE (discussed below) are context-specific factors that are embedded in Africa’s future food security; they form the foundation, and inform the direction, of the identified research focus areas.
Transforming Africa’s agriculture and food systems. Africa has been less successful than other regions in terms of the value it captures relative to the importance of agriculture to its economies. Research that is intended to have an impact on food security needs to have an overarching vision to catalyse the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and food systems.
Empowering vulnerable Groups. Vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by malnutrition and at risk of food insecurity. Among these are smallholder farmers, landless agricultural workers and the urban poor. Within these vulnerable groups, children, the elderly and women are disproportionately affected. This has ethical and socio-economic consequences that affect individuals and communities. A truly sustainable, socially responsible food system cannot be achieved without taking into consideration the impact of the system on these vulnerable groups.
Food security and nutrition in cities and towns. The share of Africans living in urban areas is projected to increase to 70% by 2050. When people move to urban areas, their consumption patterns change. Unless African food production adapts to changing consumption patterns, this shift will put pressure on the food system. These urbanisation patterns need to be understood in the context of Africa’s growing youth bulge, where the agriculture and food systems are teeming with opportunity for job creation for the youthful populace – this requires efforts to maximise these in an inclusive manner.
Harnessing big data and ICT. Big data and smart-tech solutions are moving into agriculture in a rapid manner, offering high potential for unprecedented innovation. The “Internet of Things” is set to introduce disruptive innovations in all sectors, catalysing exponential increases in productivity and efficiency. The ARUA CoE intends to explore how big data and ICTs can be positively engaged to transform the agricultural and foods sectors in Africa. The proposed ARUA CoE in Food Security is well-positioned to tackle these challenges in partnership with the Institute for Data Science and Big Data at UP.