Frans Swanepoel Lecture

7 June 2018


Frans Swanepoel

Towards Zero Hunger (SDG2) in Africa

A public lecture by Frans Swanepoel, Research Professor, Centre for Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria, South Africa and 2018 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow. 

Currently there are 1.3 billion people in Africa; more than five times the population in 1950. By 2050, Africa’s population will double to 2.6 billion, eventually reaching 4.2 billion by the end of the century – just about the entire world population in 1977. Africa is also the world’s most food insecure continent, with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, low rural incomes, high rates of malnutrition, and a significantly worsening food trade balance. Ironically Africa has sufficient land, water and human resources to be a substantial contributor to the world’s food balance sheet, and to contribute to the growing global demand for both food staples and higher value added food, as well as to energy markets. Agriculture and the food sector also present significant opportunity for employment and wealth creation. This critical role of agriculture in fostering sustained competitiveness and profitability in the sector, in the face of a world economy that is rapidly transformed into a knowledge and network economy is acknowledged both within the scientific community and in Governments at large. Without question, agriculture and capacity strengthening are now back on the development agenda as Africa refocuses towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). African agriculture has a number of major strengths, but also faces a significant number of challenges, a set of unique opportunities. Africa has now entered a development stage where some analysts are taking a more positive outlook and narrative as opposed to the traditional ‘Afro-pessimism’ of the last five decades. A new school of thought is emerging, one that recognises that Africa is in a better position to help itself be food secure moving forward – agriculture has started growing, albeit slowly but sustainably over the last decade. However, a number of interesting trends distinguish the economic growth of Africa from other continents. The dominant growth detected here is by small intermediary groups who are responding to rapid urbanisation and the growing ‘middle-class’. Strategies to support growth in sustainable agriculture should thus be responsive to these trends in order to vastly improve food security on the African continent.

Frans Swanepoel is Professor of Agricultural Transformation in Africa at the University of Pretoria (UP), South Africa (SA), where he also serves as Director: Strategic International Partnerships. He is former Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) SA. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for African Development (IAD), Cornell University, USA. He serves on the boards of a number of high-level continental bodies, incl. the Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), and the Regional University Forum for Capacity Development in Agriculture (RUFORUM). He is a member the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and a Fellow of the Ugandan National Academy of Sciences (UNAS). He was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at Cornell University (2008-2009). He obtained all his degrees [BSc, BSc Agric (Hons) and MSc Agric] with distinction. He researched at Texas A&M University and University of the Free State, SA for his PhD. His research interests include African food systems, research leadership and capacity development and partnerships and networking in Africa. He has published extensively, and has been chief-editor for three books, including: Towards Impact and Resilience: Transformative Change in and through Agricultural Education and Training in sub-Saharan Africa by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK in collaboration with IAD at Cornell University.