Food security

Why electricity access is critical for food security

In articles in Business Report and The Citizen, FairPlay founder Francois Baird explained how a lack of electricity can affect both food security and social stability. 

The recent coup in Gabon was a symptom of the instability that affects resource-rich countries where the population lack access to energy and jobs and are at risk of food insecurity. 

“Africa desperately needs more electricity,” Baird wrote.

“Without a reliable electricity supply, economies will not grow, businesses will not create jobs, and poverty levels will increase. The result: more hunger, more poverty, less food security, and less social stability,” he said.

“Electricity is essential to modern agriculture, for crop irrigation, for round-the-clock operations such as poultry production, and for food processing and packaging. It is essential, too, for retailers who rely on extensive refrigeration. Without electricity, food rots.”

South Africa had its electricity problems, but in many other African countries the situation was far worse. 

“Africa has the world’s fastest growing population – its 1.4 billion people are expected to increase to 1.7 billion by 2030. However, electricity access is going backwards. The International Energy Agency linked this directly to increasing poverty and declining food security,” Baird said.

Unreliable electricity supplies were contributing to a sharp increase in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, with the number of people affected by food crises quadrupling in some areas, the IEA had reported.

To address poverty and malnutrition, Africa must have stable food production, Baird said. That in turn required a stable and reliable supply of electricity.

“Electricity supply depends on several factors, including a stable government and a thriving private sector, which creates jobs that will help to relieve poverty and hunger. Therefore, if countries are to fix their electricity problems, they must also address their governance issues.

“The best conditions to develop and maintain a reliable energy supply to industry will be in those countries where there are market solutions and private ownership, and where rule-of-law institutions are empowered against corruption.”

Africa had abundant energy resources, Baird concluded. Its governments should ensure that those resources were used to better effect. Food security depends on it.