Food security in Africa has been declining, but recent events have shown how grave the situation is. With repeated external shocks to the world’s food supply networks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, concerns about “imported volatility” and instability are once again at the forefront of public discourse.
The continent is currently looking for a political solution to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that is appropriate for the seriousness of the situation. One method to improve the resilience of the local and regional food markets to shocks is to enhance intra-African trade.
What It Would Take To Provide Structural Solutions To Food Insecurity In Africa?
There are different ways to cover food insufficiency. A few have been discussed below:
- Concentrate On Native Foods
- Regional Value Networks Are Necessary
- Investments In Systems And Infrastructure For Commerce
- Economic And Political Issues
- Promising Efforts
1) Concentrate On Native Foods
African countries often import food worth up to $43 billion annually and rely on cash crops like cocoa, coffee, and tobacco to create foreign currencies. Additionally, these imports are often from outside the area. Africa has one of the lowest rates of formally reported intra-regional commerce in agricultural products, at under 20%.
The majority of imported foods are cereals, followed by highly processed (unhealthy) foods. The organization of global value chains, which is controlled by a small number of leading corporations, may be attributed to this situation. As a result, “Northern staple grains are traded for Southern high-value products (meats, fruits, and vegetables).”
Given the “urban bias,” policy emphasis has historically focused on maintaining supply through lower import costs to prevent discontent among urban inhabitants. On the other hand, subsistence farmers have historically produced the majority of the basic foods and other fruits and vegetables throughout Africa.
2) Regional Value Networks Are Necessary
This still ranks among the AfCFTA’s primary goals, but achieving it would require building capacity across the whole food value chain, beyond just production, as is frequently the case (for example, in Nigeria). Developing strong connections with regional markets is also crucial.
In addition to the various value chain phases, investments are required in the research and development of African staple foods and vegetables, which have received less attention. Extension services would also be necessary to raise output and increase yields.
3) Investments In Systems And Infrastructure For Commerce
Naturally, encouraging regional food commerce under the AfCFTA necessitates a favorable origin-rules environment that offers businesses sufficient incentives to produce for and sell in the regional market.
The same goes for the establishment of regulatory frameworks for quality assurance systems. As the instance of rice in West Africa shows, without them, the commodity simply won’t sell or be allowed at the border.
Without sufficient infrastructure, regional trade will not be possible. This covers both hard infrastructure, such as trade facilitation and border controls, which will still be necessary and will cost $170 billion annually by 2025.
4) Economic And Political Issues
Smallholders, commercial farmers, and a range of input and service providers are among the diverse group of players necessary for effective regional value chains, which also raises the possibility that there may be obstacles along the road, particularly when interests and incentives are at odds. There will be winners and losers as a result of policies, and a collaborative approach will be required to coordinate efforts and prevent possible roadblocks.
Politics is important on a larger scale. In some circumstances, altering the status quo may have an impact on political elites’ patronage networks and other entrenched interests. On the other hand, given worries about agricultural livelihoods and food security, there could be hesitation to liberalize the food trade.
Alternatively, as the AfCFTA discussions have proven, it might take a very long time. It’s possible that some things, including live animals, meat, fish, milk, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, spices, oilseeds, and sugars, won’t be fully liberalized or will only be done gradually over time.
It would be more beneficial to be transparent about these trade-offs and try to develop productive skills within a specific setting as opposed to acting politically illiterate.
5) Promising Efforts
The Reconciliation, Stabilization, and Resilience Trust Fund (RSRTF) presents an original, all-encompassing, and cogent solution to tackling many of the aforementioned difficulties in light of the growing magnitude, scope, and complexity of civilian demands, including protection needs. RSRTF supports a number of initiatives that minimize conflict’s destructive forces and improve the environment for accomplishing goals related to development and resilience.
What Is The AfCFTA’s Extra Benefit?
AfCFTA stands for “African Continental Free Trade Area”.
Based on the number of countries involved, the AfCFTA agreement will lead to the largest free trade area in the world.
Before we can witness an increase in intra-African food commerce as a result, there is still more work to be done to solve these intricate and interrelated concerns. It is crucial to emphasize that commerce under the AfCFTA has not yet started.
Since the majority of agricultural commerce is localized, existing regional free trade agreements already offer chances to expand regional trade, albeit to varied degrees, but the AfCFTA is far more ambitious. A corridor strategy, which is still a crucial development instrument employed by AUDA-NEPAD, the AU’s development agency, may also help achieve many of these goals.
Geographic Explanation of Food Insecurity in Africa
1. Horn of Africa
One of the world’s most serious food insecurity crises is in the Horn of Africa. It is projected that around 37 million individuals fall into the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 3 or above. Food insecurity at the crisis (IPC Phase 3) and emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels is pervasive in the region.
In southern and central Somalia, at least 213,000 people are suffering from extreme levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 5), in which households have a severe lack of food and have used all available coping mechanisms.
This stage is marked by starvation, mortality, extreme poverty, and dangerously acute malnutrition levels. To avert severe acute food insecurity, almost 17 million people in southern and southeast Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia alone require humanitarian food aid.
High levels of food insecurity affect residents in Ethiopia’s northern, eastern, and southern regions. Conflict and insecurity, as well as climate change, are the main causes of this situation. In the south and south-east, some eight million people are impacted by a protracted drought.
3. Southern Sudan
Since the country’s independence in 2011, South Sudan has seen its worst levels of food insecurity. 8.3 million of the 12.1 million people in the country are in IPC Phase 3 or above and are in a crisis, emergency, or famine situation. There are 81 pockets of starvation documented nationwide.
4. The Sahel
In the Sahel area, up to 18 million people struggle with extreme food insecurity. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are three of the worst-affected nations, with an estimated 12.7 million residents in IPC Phase 3 or above. It is anticipated that the war in Ukraine will make the situation worse by raising food costs globally and pushing an extra 7 to 10 million people into food insecurity.
The food and nutrition crisis in Mali is at its worst level in ten years. At the end of 2021, more than 1.3 million people were in ICP Phase 3 or above. By June 2022, it was predicted that this number would increase to 1.8 million.
Some of the factors driving this rapid growth include 2021’s unpredictable rainfall, violence against herders from accessing vital grazing and farming regions, and extreme price increases of essential goods combined with decreased market availability of consumables.
At the end of 2021, about 13 million Nigerians were in ICP Phase 3 or above. 4.1 million of them reside in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (the Bay States), three states in the northeast that have experienced war. It is estimated that 13,500 people in Borno State would perish from famine or other causes if ongoing humanitarian and livelihood interventions were not made.
7. Central And Southern Africa
In 12 Central and Southern African nations, there were about 46 million individuals in IPC Phase 3 or above in 2021, an increase of more than 5 million from the previous year. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and the Central African Republic (CAR) are the countries that have been most severely impacted.
While most countries have seen a worsening of the situation in the last year, Zimbabwe is one of only a handful that has seen an improvement since 2020 as a consequence of favorable meteorological conditions leading to greater agricultural output.
Better harvests in the first half of 2022 did enhance food security in the region, but owing to anticipated droughts and cyclones, benefits are likely to be minor and transient. Furthermore, post-harvest advancements will be significantly constrained by the region’s deteriorating macroeconomic situation.
8. Democratic Republic Of Congo
The IPC Phase 4 emergency affects 6.7 million people in the DRC, which has the greatest rate of food insecurity in the world (27 million people in ICP Phase 3 or higher). The major causes of food insecurity are armed conflict and pervasive insecurity.
Extreme weather conditions, illness (such as Ebola, cholera, and measles), crop pests, and the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 epidemic are further factors.
Charting A Course Forward: Key Takeaways And Future Directions For African Nations
In order to achieve this, it is advised that African governments, the commercial sector, civil society, and their international partners in governments, IFIs, the UN, and other agencies:
- Examine national and regional policies that address some of the factors covered in this article to confirm that they take into account the connections between the issues so that the challenges and the solutions are equally interrelated.
- After conducting a review, go on with developing a coordinated, coherent, and decisive action plan for the entire area. This will integrate efforts to increase food security, increase resilience to the effects of climate change, and foster peace.
- Continue to protect the area for humanitarian operations and direct policy toward the transition from immediate assistance to sustainable development and peacebuilding, balancing immediate gains with the establishment of a solid foundation for long-term advancement.
- Increase the amount of resources available to promote inter-sectoral coordination and food security.
- Pay attention to initiatives that have many positive effects on society’s well-being, such as better food systems, higher possibilities for peace, and increased climate change resistance.
- Establish a deep understanding of the local context as the foundation for all humanitarian, peacekeeping, and development efforts, including those that address the effects of climate change. Pay close attention to what local voices have to say about issues and opportunities on the ground.
- Guarantee that all operations are adequately monitored in order to guarantee accountability, proper use of money, and flexibility so that required modifications can be made when issues occur or conditions change (including the geopolitical and economic climate across the world).
- Take a strong stance against anyone who employs malnutrition as a weapon in a war or other conflict.
- Take every opportunity, especially at the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to reaffirm the commitment to attaining Zero Hunger by funding nutrition and resilience in nations impacted by both war and climate change.
How Can Africa Avoid Severe Food Insecurity in the Face of Climate Change?
The impact of harsh weather on crops highlights the difficulties and the requirement for strategies to preserve lives and save livelihoods.
Africa’s sub-Saharan region is experiencing increased food insecurity as a result of climate change, the pandemic, and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
Climate events, which obstruct food distribution and obliterate crops, occur disproportionately frequently in the area. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one-third of the world’s droughts, and Ethiopia and Kenya are currently experiencing one of the worst in at least four decades. Floods and heavy rains are having a terrible impact on nations like Chad.
As a result, there is an increase in poverty and other human costs, which are exacerbated by cascading macroeconomic consequences like slower economic development. A recent IMF policy study investigated how fiscal and financial reforms, such as technology transfer, might lessen this harm and aid nations in adapting.
Because native food production is weather-dependent, there is a significant reliance on imports, with about 85% originating from outside the area. While food imports might act as a buffer against domestic shocks, consumers may still be affected by inflation brought on by weather shocks in places where imports are generated.
In a similar vein, adverse weather conditions that increase transportation costs are also passed through. High food import prices as a result might deplete foreign reserves and pressure exchange rates, causing price increases to accelerate.
On the other side, selective government engagement may be advantageous, such as when it promotes agricultural production and resilience-building research and development. In the face of funding and capacity constraints, prioritizing policies around those that best protect the poor will be crucial.
a) Financial And Fiscal Regulations
Infrastructure that is climate resilient is the first step in protecting food delivery and production from weather catastrophes. In addition to producing jobs, this kind of public investment may spur private investment.
It is also essential to digitize. Farms now have access to mobile banking, early warning systems, and marketplaces where they may buy seeds, fertilizer, or other products, bridging the gap between small farms and big businesses.
b) Inexpensive Structural Changes
The supply of food in the region and its pricing may be stabilized by trade liberalization and import diversification. If the export of the grain had been permitted, Zambia’s large maize yields, for instance, may have helped make up for shortages in other parts of Southern Africa.
Investment in agricultural production networks and value chains may be encouraged by access to bigger markets. Additionally, it can encourage competition and transmit information, such as how to produce crops resistant to drought. The 54-nation Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, which covers the majority of products and services, is a step in the right direction.
What Can The G20 Do To End Chronic Food Insecurity In Africa?
Long- and short-term reasons for increased hunger in Africa include the pandemic, the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, climate change, low agricultural output, and political problems.
The G20 is essential to tackling this issue since it is a coalition of the biggest economies in the world.
In Africa, hunger levels have drastically risen since 2013, after declining between 2000 and 2013. Africa’s performance in combating undernutrition was not spectacular even in the pre-pandemic era, when growth rates were higher, despite the fact that global food insecurity is presently at an all-time high.
In addition to short-term external shocks like the epidemic and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, there are also long-term issues like climate change, conflict, low agricultural productivity, and a lack of domestic attention given to food security in Africa. The G20 is the perfect forum for a global response to address concerns about food insecurity in Africa because of its influence on the governance of important international problems. This report suggests that a special package be announced (with a significant initial commitment from India) to assist short- and long-term policy efforts to ensure food security in Africa.
Climate Change’s Impacts On Food Security
Climate change has negative effects on several areas of food security in addition to its effects on food production, including:
1) Food Access
By upsetting food systems, lowering food availability, and raising food prices, climate change can affect access to food. Extreme weather conditions like floods or droughts, which can destroy crops and disrupt supply systems, may be to blame for this. People may find it challenging to get the food they require to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet as a result.
2) Food Absorption
Climate change may affect how well nutrients from food are absorbed. Increasing temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns, for instance, might result in poorer agricultural yields and nutritional contents, especially for staple crops like maize and wheat. Important minerals like iron, zinc, and vitamin A, which are necessary for sustaining good health, may become less readily available as a result.
3) Food Stability
The capacity of food systems to endure and recover from shocks like droughts, floods, or economic downturns can also be impacted by climate change. Food systems may become more susceptible to these shocks as a result of climate change, especially in areas with poor infrastructure and resources. Food insecurity may worsen as a result of price volatility and supply limitations.
To address these issues, it is essential to take a holistic approach that incorporates both adaptation and mitigation measures. Adaptation tactics can lessen susceptibility to the effects of climate change and help food systems become more resilient. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the severity of upcoming climate change consequences are both possible with mitigation methods. African nations may strive toward ensuring that their food systems can produce sufficient and wholesome food for all of their population, despite the difficulties caused by climate change, by putting these measures into practice.
The current situation in Africa emphasizes the significance of giving food security first priority in public policy. Chronic food insecurity on the continent is a complicated problem that requires coordinated and persistent efforts by governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders.
Increasing agricultural productivity, promoting sustainable farming methods, encouraging private sector investment, expanding access to financial services, enhancing nutrition and health, increasing agricultural aid, and addressing conflict and instability are all necessary components of a multifaceted strategy to address food insecurity in Africa.
African countries may strive to ensure that all of their populations have access to sufficient and nourishing food by putting these policies into practice. In order to address the difficulties facing food security on the continent, this study suggests a unique funding package for Africa.
How Can Food Insecurity Be Reduced?
Food insecurity can be reduced in a number of ways, including:
1. Lead or assist in a food drive as a volunteer. Children who struggle with hunger can find nourishing food at their schools.
2. Participate in a local food bank volunteer program.
3. Assist meals on wheels.
4. Support a family.
5. Participate in a mutual-help organization.
6. Give food and supplies to those in need.
What Would Be A Good Plan To Increase Food Security?
Improving infrastructure, supporting more effective production methods, and reducing food waste are important approaches to increasing food security.
What Method Of Food Preservation Does Africa Use?
The manufacture of a broad variety of processed food items and low-cost food preservation in non-refrigerated environments are two of the most crucial African traditional food processing processes, which include fermentation and sun-drying.
What Kind Of Diet Does Africa Practice?
Bananas, cereal grains, roots and tubers, and legumes are the major mainstays. Bambara nuts, cowpeas, cluster beans, hyacinth beans, mung beans, lima beans, groundnuts, pigeon peas, and soybeans are some of the most common types of legumes consumed. The majority of the food consumed in Africa is grain.