GNA Feature by Ntwali Muderhwa
Accra, March 21, GNA - Since the inception of
the African Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), it has contributed immensely to
bridging critical gaps in the development agenda of many African countries.
Over the years, the fund has served as a mechanism for rapid intervention in very dire situations that many African countries were faced with. Many pests and diseases of devastating impact on lives have been mitigated due to the timely support of the fund.
Key among them is the Ebola outbreak, the devastating fall army worm that wiped thousands of crops particularly in West Africa. The entire chain of detection, prevention, response and monitoring strategies were backed by the fund.
ASTF is addressing one of the most teething challenges many Africa governments are grappling with today- the scourge of youth employment. Statistics has it that about 30mllion African youth join the labour market each year, but nearly 10million jobs are available every year. With the support of the fund however, many more jobs are created to bolster the existing ones, largely helping bridge the youth unemployment gap.
Additionally, several of value chain projects, such as resilience and livelihood projects, food safety, security and nutrition projects have all received support from the fund. Empowerment of rural women in the agriculture sector is no exception.
Undoubtedly, ASTF projects proved to have a catalytic effect, where building on the success of the projects provided an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and to mobilize resources, such as in Malawi, funding from the European Union for EUR 66 million to replicate the farmer field school model in ten districts.
ASTF “initiative” is extremely relevant for the African context as it addresses a fundamental mismatch in African development, whereas the continent priorities are defined by member states funding contributions address the priorities of external partners.
At this point there is the need for stronger political will and commitment for the realization of policies, and programs to enhance agricultural practice in Africa which eventually will boost food security and nutrition, resilience and relief and provide more employment.
In practical terms, it is a conviction shared by many Africans, that the main obstacle for Africa’s development is lack of a political will and consensus, and not a lack of financial resources,
Angola and Equatorial Guinea, major financial contributors to the ASTF, deserve praises for contributing an amount of USD 40 million to date, the fund has allocated USD 37 million to 18 regional programmes and national projects, which are being implemented in 40 countries.
In many respects, the ASTF is South-South Cooperation (SSC) by nature as many of the supported programmes and projects are up-scaling good practices, knowledge and technology from one African country to another.
A joint Steering Committee and a Fund Assembly (FA), with the support of a Programme Management Unit (PMU), govern the ASTF. The fund supports activities aligned to SDGs, FAO’s renewed strategic framework and priority programmes as well as development priorities determined by the ARC.
As a result the Luxembourg funded EUR 1.5 million is to replicate the ASTF approach of building resilience for conflict-affected rural communities, reducing rural poverty through youth employment opportunities and building best practices to increase crop and livestock production whilst the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) funded a USD 318 085 project.
Also in Liberia, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) funded a USD 1.2 million project for scaling up interventions.
While in the Niger, the results of an ASTF project helped mobilize USD 810 300 from Norway to strengthen the resilience of rural communities.
It suffice to say that, considering the role the African Solidarity Trust Fund has so far played in touching every sphere of Africa’s development, the time is rife for a renewed commitment by all stakeholders to rake in more into the basket for the shared prosperity of all.