By Hudson Kuteesa
Sustainable cooling experts from around the globe will, on Tuesday, October 19, be taking part in a virtual summit that aims at giving Africa’s policymakers and business leaders the tools to help keep farmers’ produce fresh and get it to market quickly and efficiently – reducing food waste, boosting profits and creating jobs.
Hosted by the British High Commission and Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment, the event supports preparations to open the African Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain (ACES).
ACES will improve cold-chains for vaccines and health – bringing together multi-disciplinary UK and African expertise with commercial partners.
ACES begins operations next year – hosted at a campus in Kigali allocated by the University of Rwanda, backed by a high-level Government team and supported by experts from the University of Birmingham and the UN Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency (UNEP).
Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister of Environment said the country looks forward to working with partners to chart the course for Africans to emerge “as global role models in pivoting away from significant food losses toward robust economic gains, healthy communities, and climate-friendly agribusiness opportunities.”
Rwanda is one of the least urbanised countries in Africa with 73% of the workforce employed in agriculture.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 54 per cent of workers rely on the agricultural sector.
A further challenge is that agriculture in Rwanda is dominated by six million small and marginal farmers, each on average farming less than 0.6 hectares of land.
Omar Daair, UK’s High Commissioner to Rwanda highlighted the significance of climate change, saying it is the greatest challenge facing the world today,
“I am really excited to see how this partnership of world-leading experts from the UK, Rwanda and beyond will find solutions to the challenge of sustainable cooling. And I’m proud that this is being spearheaded right here in Kigali with support from the UK,” he said.
According to Toby Peters, Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham, farmers need robust and sustainable means of getting perishable produce to urban markets.
“This high-profile summit moves us closer to achieving this goal in Rwanda and the wider continent without using fossil fuels,” he said.
“ACES will develop and demonstrate ways of delivering affordable lowest carbon emissions cooling and cold-chain systems while meeting Africa’s social and economic cooling needs,”
“Without a robust and sustainable cold chain, the continent will struggle to feed its millions of citizens effectively or meet its export targets to drive growth,” he added.
ACES supports Rwanda’s National Agricultural Export Development Board’s (NAEB) five-year strategy to double agricultural exports by 2024-25 and significantly increase exports of aqua-culture, beef and other temperature-sensitive products, and it is supportive of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and related sustainable development targets by countries throughout the continent.