The Ukraine war has highlighted once again the need for Africa to produce more of its own food.
A year ago, FairPlay noted a report from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) saying African countries had failed to increase agricultural investment to help feed their expanding populations.
In 2003, 55 heads of state had pledged to commit at least 10% of public expenditure to agriculture (this pledge was renewed in 2014). For the most part, this goal had not been met, the FAO said. Instead, more than 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were undernourished, with hunger affecting one out of five people.
The FAO analysed the problem and offered solutions, starting with the fact that increased agricultural investment is crucial to alleviating hunger.
“High priority should be given to funding programmes and projects with the highest return on investment in terms of agricultural growth, food security and poverty reduction,” it said.
Five months after this report was published, Russia invaded Ukraine, halting exports from the two countries that supplied most of the world’s grain. African nations were among the many threatened with a renewed hunger crisis.
Nigerian writer Olakunle Mohammed says the Ukraine war has increased to 340 million the number of Africans facing food insecurity.
“The continent’s over-reliance on Ukraine and Russia for food importation means that the food crisis will get worse. A rewarding solution would be for African nations to prioritise food sovereignty to curb the looming food crisis,” he says.
Olakunle defines food sovereignty as “a systemic change in the food system”. He ties it to implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) because upholding free trade policies, especially intra-Africa trade, is important to lessen the food crisis.
“The scheme places local farmers at the centre of modern agriculture. It empowers local farmers to produce and distribute crops that thrive within their regions without fear of unfavourable trade regulations, climate change, lack of infrastructure, and drought.”
He also says Africa should be benefiting more from its natural gas resources because of Russia’s gas cuts. “Major oil and gas exporters in Africa can ramp up natural gas production and increase their exports to Europe.”