By Sarah Tzinieris
A new report by the World Bank, released on 24 October, says that food security in sub-Saharan Africa could be assured by reducing cross-border barriers to trade. It suggests that creating competitive food markets could make the continent self-sufficient and save up to US$20bn annually. According to the report, entitled ‘Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples’, farmers on the continent face more trade barriers in bringing food to market than any other part of the world. A combination of low agricultural yields, high transport costs and burdensome export regulations mean that many of the poorest countries remain largely dependent on food imports from other continents. The report calls on African governments to boost agricultural yields and put fertile land to use, with an estimated 400m hectares across the continent still uncultivated. Noting that only 5% of total cereal imports come from other African countries, it urges governments to stimulate cross-border trade and create stable market conditions that encourage investment in agriculture.
Sub-Saharan Africa is affected more by the burden of food insecurity than any other part of the world. Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index 2013 shows that 9 out of the 11 countries categorised at ‘extreme risk’ are in Africa. In the past year, tens of thousands died from drought in the Horn of Africa at the same time that flash flooding in the Niger Delta devastated harvests across West Africa. Africa’s perennial cycles of drought, flood and conflict are met by donor funds from developed countries, while food imports from outside Africa tend to address weak harvests or the non-availability of crops. However, as the World Bank’s latest report suggests, the resolution to one of Africa’s most significant problems could be closer to home. (more…)