Digital Regional Food Balance Sheet Launched

Kigali, Thursday, Sept 08, 2022: COMESA in partnership with several stakeholders, among them the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have launched the digital Regional Food Balance Sheet (RFBS). The RFBS aims to accelerate the application of digital, remote sensing and advanced analytical technologies to provide forecasts for major food commodities in the East and Southern African region.

This initiative will help the region to inform policy and business decisions on food security, agricultural trade and investment.

Secretary General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe joined by partners namely the AGRA, USAID, the Rockefeller Foundation, the UK Foreign and  Commonwealth Development Office, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rwandan Government launched the digital RFBS in Kigali on the sidelines of the Alliance for Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2022) Summit. The launch took place after the SG participated in a panel discussion on leveraging Data to Improve Intra-African Food Trade.

“Today am happy that we are launching the Digital Regional Food Balance Sheet Minimum Viable Product platform covering Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania” she said.

SG Kapwepwe said that data gaps are worsened by a lack of collaboration and coordination among food system actors adding that several stakeholders collect data which stays unvalidated, shared, or consolidated into one central database to inform decision-making.

The platform covers a few commodities, but will be expanded to other food commodities and countries as it continues to be developed, based on the users’ feedback, needs and requirements.

Agricultural Experts attending the meeting, observed that the lack of reliable, timely and transparent data on agri-food systems is a pervasive problem that challenge decision-making for all stakeholders, including governments, farmers, traders/processors, investors, and development partners.

Basic data on food production, consumption, trade, stocks and balances are essential to promote not just regional food security, but also long-term inclusive agricultural transformation, regional agricultural trade, and resilient food systems.

To enhance the quality of agri-food data, in terms of access, accuracy, timeliness, coverage, consistency, and reliability, COMESA is keen to leverage the existing information and communication technologies to improve data collection, analyses, dissemination, and management.

It is in response to these gaps that COMESA, in collaboration with AGRA, development and technical partners, is re-focusing the efforts to address data gaps in agro-food systems through initiatives that include having the digital RFBS. These will leverage digital technology to provide data and forecasts on crop production, consumption, cross-border trade and stocks.

The RFBS is also a response to a directive of the 2020 COMESA Council of Ministers to COMESA Secretariat to implement a COMESA-wide RFBS initiative.

The Agricultural Experts also gathered commitments and encouraged governments to align national and regional strategies and policies to support the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Further, it sought to gain commitment from development partners and the private sector, to support the building of robust data systems to strengthen and inform food and nutrition security, trade policies, address constraints to food trade, and guide investment decisions in regional food value chains in Africa.