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Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit 2024: African Leaders Underscore Need for Fertilizer Self-Sufficiency

Africa is grappling with a critical agricultural crisis marked by deteriorating soil health, inadequate fertilizer application, climate adversities such as flooding and drought, and widespread land degradation. These challenges have culminated in severe food and nutrition insecurity for millions across the continent.

Despite producing approximately 30 million metric tons of fertilizer annually, Africa remains heavily reliant on imports, with around 90% of fertilizers consumed in Sub-Saharan Africa being imported.

This reliance, especially for non-phosphate-based fertilizers, has left the continent vulnerable to global market shocks like the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, the Russia-Ukraine war, which disrupted fertilizer supplies and escalated costs, making fertilizers unaffordable for farmers.

To address this ticking time bomb, African leaders and heads of states convened in Nairobi, Kenya, for the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit 2024. Held under the theme “Listen to the Land,” the three-day summit was aimed at assessing Africa’s soil health and review progress since the 2006 Abuja Declaration on Fertilizers for a Green Revolution in Africa, which sought to increase fertilizer use for agricultural growth with a target of 50 kilograms per hectare per year.

However, eighteen years later, the average fertilizer use rate stands at about 18 kilograms, less than half of the target set in 2006. According to an African Union review, only ten African countries, including Morocco, Egypt, and South Africa, have met their targets, with Kenya being the sole East African nation to achieve this milestone.

Speaking during the summit, African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat pointed out that over-reliance on imported fertilizers was affecting farmers. “Some African countries produce fertilizers, but we depend mostly on imported fertilizers, making them very expensive for our farmers. Yet the African Center for Fertilizer Development, based in Zimbabwe, has been in existence since the 1980s. We must optimize the use of such existing continental assets to boost local fertilizer production and deliver quality fertilizers to African farmers at affordable prices.”

“This is imperative if we are to improve the continent’s agricultural sector, key for our food sovereignty and security,” he stressed.

Addressing the summit, Kenya’s President William Ruto said that while it is encouraging to see several African nations making strides in fertilizer production, particularly phosphate fertilizers, there is a need for enhanced self-sufficiency in fertilizer manufacturing, especially the production of nitrogen fertilizers. “The absence of nitrogen fertilizer production plants, due to high capital requirements, underscores the need for regional investment collaboration to enhance our self-sufficiency in fertilizer manufacturing,” Ruto stated.

Way Forward

The summit culminated with the endorsement of the Nairobi Declaration on Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health, along with the launch of a ten-year action plan. The declaration, among other things, calls for increased investment in manufacturing, research and development, and the harmonization of policies under the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement to facilitate fertilizer movement within the continent.

Key guiding documents, such as the Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan and the Soil Initiative for Africa Framework, were introduced to foster multi-stakeholder partnerships and investments.

In the Nairobi Declaration, the 54 member states committed to triple domestic production and distribution of fertilizers by 2034, improving fertilizer access and affordability for smallholder farmers, resuscitating the African Centre for Fertilizer Development in Harare, and fully operationalizing the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism (AFFM) to enhance production, procurement, and distribution of fertilizers and soil health interventions.

Moussa further reiterated the AU’s commitment to addressing soil health issues and urged member countries to prioritize agricultural investments in their national budgets. “We need to renew strong political will by member states through the mobilization of domestic resources to reflect the priority of the agricultural sector as defined in Malabo.”

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