LUANDA, Angola, May 31 (IPS) – While Africa has not yet fully recovered from the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine poses another major threat to the global economy, with many African countries be directly affected.
In a matter of weeks, global wheat, sunflower and crude oil prices have soared to unprecedented levels. Africa relies heavily on food imports from both countries, and the continent is already experiencing price shocks and supply chain disruptions for these commodities.
The conflict is likely to affect food security in Africa. Both through the availability and pricing of some food crops, notably wheat and sunflower, and through socio-economic recovery and growth caused by increasing uncertainties in global financial markets and supply chain systems.
Over the past decade, the continent has seen a growing demand for cereal crops, including wheat and sunflower, which has been mainly supported by imports rather than local production. Wheat imports from Africa increased by 68 percent between 2007 and 2019, to 47 million tons.
Russia and Ukraine, both often referred to as the breadbasket of the world, are major players in wheat and sunflower exports to Africa. North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia), Nigeria in West Africa, Ethiopia and Sudan in East Africa and South Africa account for 80 percent of wheat imports.
Wheat consumption in Africa is projected to reach 76.5 million tons by 2025, of which 48.3 million tons or 63.4 percent is expected to be imported outside the continent.
The sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries will further exacerbate trade flows between Russia and Africa due to the closure of vital port activities in the Black Sea. Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of fertilizers.
Concerns are growing that a global fertilizer shortage will lead to rising food prices, with knock-on effects on agricultural production and food security.
Russia is also the third largest oil producer in the world after the United States and Saudi Arabia. The disruption in world oil prices is expected to lead to a rise in fuel prices and higher costs of food production.
Some regions, including the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, are at greater risk of food insecurity from country-specific shocks, climate change, export restrictions and supplies, especially if rising fertilizer and other energy-intensive input costs will negatively impact the next farming season as as a result of the ongoing conflict.
A silver lining to reduce dependence on food imports
While the socio-economic impacts are already significant and the situation remains highly unpredictable, Africa should also view the current geopolitical crisis as an opportunity to reduce its dependence on food imports from outside the continent.
African countries need to take advantage of their 60 percent global share of farmland to grow more food for domestic consumption and for export to the global market. This would reduce the number of people with food and nutritional insecurity due to external shocks.
Africa’s common position on food systems
In 2021, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) worked with African countries to create a common African position ahead of the Food Systems Summit, in line with Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Africa Common Position is a synthesis and a unified view on how to transform Africa’s food systems over the next decade, principally on resilience in the face of increasing fragility and shocks. It is enshrined in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth.
Rapid expansion of agricultural and food productivity and production has been identified as one of the pioneering solutions. To avoid future supply chain disruptions for wheat and sunflower across Africa, countries producing these grains need to increase their production capacity and supply to other countries through intra-African trade.
And those that don’t should consider incorporating specific food crops into their agricultural value chain. This will reduce dependence on wheat and grain imports from Russia and Ukraine and, most importantly, promote intra-African trade and grow African agricultural sectors.
African Continental Free Trade Area a lever and engine for intra-regional agri-food markets
Another lever in transforming Africa’s food systems is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which came into effect on January 1, 2021. African countries should take advantage of the world’s largest free trade zone.
The trade deal is expected to bring in $2.5 trillion in combined GDP, and agribusiness will contribute significantly to this growth. The AfCFTA will increase production and value added and ensure adequate quality infrastructure and food safety standards to supply and grow local and regional agri-food markets.
The oil and gas factor
To avoid future food price shocks from rising oil and gas prices on the global market, African countries need to improve their oil and gas production and exploration capacity to fill any gaps that could arise from supply chain disruptions in major countries. global producers.
African fuel and gas producing countries such as Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania should explore ways to boost production and bridge the gas and oil gap can be filled within the continent. and beyond to mitigate fuel price shocks, which could contribute to lower food costs.
In addition, African governments should invest in or attract more international investment in oil and gas exploration, particularly in countries where underground oil reserves are believed to exist but have yet to be explored.
2022 Year of the African Union Nutrition
The AU proclaimed 2022 the Year of Food with the main goal of strengthening food resilience and nutrition security. The 2019 AU CAADP biennial assessment report revealed that Africa is not on track to meet its goal of ending hunger by 2025, and notes a deterioration in food and nutrition security on the continent since the inaugural report in 2017.
Increasing food production and expanding Africa’s food basket will serve both nutritional and resilience goals. In this regard, conscious investments should be made towards increased productivity and production of traditional and indigenous crops. This also requires a systems approach by integrating nutrition into resilient and strong health and social protection systems.
Climate resilience in Africa’s food systems
African food systems continue to face several challenges, including extreme weather events and climate change; limited use of yield-enhancing technologies; dependence on rainfed agriculture and low irrigation levels; and most recently the spread of the autumn armyworm in parts of the continent.
Climate change puts more than 38 million people at risk of hunger and poverty in Africa. Climate-resilient technologies offer the continent great opportunities to increase African food production and productivity while building resilience and reducing poverty and hunger.
Digital and biotechnologies and the transformation of food systems
While the continent has made significant progress in adopting and using information and communication technologies for large-scale food producers, the benefits of digital innovations have not been fully bridged by small-scale producers, processors, and retailers to access extension services, markets, and financial services. .
Increasing the competitiveness of African agriculture also includes the adoption of biotechnology, including improved seed varieties, and requires robust food production policy frameworks. Biotechnology is expected to accelerate growth, create wealth and feed an African population projected to reach 2.2 billion people by 2050.
Regional solutions are a precondition for tackling structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities, including poverty and inequality
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has once again highlighted the urgent need for policy and investment choices to maintain and build viable, resilient and inclusive food systems on the continent.
Africa’s Common Position on Food Systems provides opportunities for Africa to increase homegrown agri-food production and ensure inclusive access to sustainable and nutritious food sources, while addressing structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities, including poverty and inequality.
The successful transformation of African food systems will largely depend on the willingness of African countries to deliver continental and regional solutions to build and maintain greater resilience in the face of external shocks. 2022 is Africa’s Year to action food and nutrition development goals.
Source: Africa Renewal, United Nations
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