President Michael D Higgins has called for an urgent response from the global community to the challenges of critical food security issues in Africa.

Mr Higgins said the underlying failures of a structural kind and multilateral institution kind that are disrupting global food supply must be addressed.

President Higgins was speaking in Senegal where he gave the opening address at the 3-day Dakar 2 Summit which is focusing on the key issues affecting food sovereignty and food resilience in Africa.

At the high-level gathering in Dakar, Mr Higgins addressed 25 Heads of African states, governors of African central banks, representatives from development agencies, NGOs, private sector stakeholders, academics and scientists.

President Higgins is the only non-African Head of State to attend the Summit. He will also deliver a closing address on Thursday.

The invitation has been extended to Mr Higgins in view of his longstanding commitment to and highlighting the ecological, economic and social justice issues affecting Africa.

During his address, Mr Higgins spoke of the role of organisations such as USAID and UNICEF in the global response to tackling acute malnutrition and he referred to last year's UN Nutrition for Growth Summit where Ireland committed € 800m to support nutrition over the next five years.

"This humanitarian response is urgent, essential, but it is not sufficient. The underlying failures of a structural kind and multilateral institution kind that are disrupting global food supply must be addressed. The global humanitarian response cannot be a mask that serves to cover for the continued neglect of the structural sources of food insecurity."

Mr Higgins was critical of historic misperceptions and racist language which has distorted African realities and continues to exist in "language in annual reports of certain extraction companies in contemporary times".

"If we challenge these misperceptions, have the courage to transact them, then we will have cleared the ground for models of contemporary connection that we need. We must be willing to submit development theory and practice, international trade, architectures of debt and dependency, to the necessary scrutiny and critique that our urgent set of global circumstances demands."

President Higgins called for an intellectual temperament, rooted in the emancipatory spirit of "African enlightenment thinking", that would result in the forging of a "new model of connection between ecology, economy and society".

Touching on the practical challenges facing food production in Africa, Mr Higgins called for the need for greater engagement with and empowerment of women in any new approaches to dealing with food security issues.

"At the top of our mutual agenda must be securing the positive role of women as land-holders, as full participants in decisions in relation to food production, distribution and nutrition."

The 3-day Dakar 2 Summit is seen as a key gathering in efforts to engage government resources, development agencies and the private sector to harness Africa's food and agriculture potential.

The summit is focus led on the urgent measures required to combat food insecurity on the African continent and is laying emphasis the need the for concrete action in formulating sustainable and transformative approaches to food production.

President Higgins is accompanied in Senegal by his wife Sabina and the Minister of State with Responsibility for Diaspora and International Development, Sean Fleming.

The visit coincides with the opening of a new Irish Embassy in Dakar. The mission is Ireland’s first in francophone West Africa and is being led Ambassador Derek Hannon.