Closing Africa’s Food Gap

Statistics show that by 2050 Africa’s population will grow from the current 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion while historical trends also reveal that the number of people living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (ASS ) has grown from $ 290 million in 1990 to $ 414 million in 2010. Meanwhile, the region currently spends over US $ 35 billion on food imports each year.

Meanwhile, World Vision reported that around 257 million people across the continent (20% of Africa) face the threat of hunger, 237 million people in SSA are chronically undernourished. At the epicenter of food insecurity in Africa lies a rapidly growing population, urbanization and limited agri-food productivity that require sustainable solutions to form “healthy and well-nourished citizens” – the 4th goal of the Africa’s Agenda 2063.

Paradoxically, African agriculture also has the greatest promise: a growing population, vibrant markets and half of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Indeed, the food deficit constitutes both a threat and an opportunity. No wonder the President of the African Development Bank, Adesina, said that “the next generation of billionaires will come from agriculture”.

The challenge

The average African farm is only functioning at around 40% of its potential. And according to current trends, the continent will only produce 13% of its food needs by 2050. Over 60% of the population of SSA are small farmers and about 23% of SSA’s GDP comes from the region. ‘Agriculture. Nigeria’s tomato deficit is a clear illustration of this. of some of the agri-food challenges affecting the continent. Tomato paste, like rice, is an esteemed staple in Nigeria’s gastronomic repertoire. Nigeria is Africa’s second-largest producer of fresh tomatoes with an annual production of 2.3 million tonnes, according to a 2018 PwC report. Inconsistently, the West African nation is the continent’s third largest importer of tomato paste, spending around $ 360 million per year (on imports from China and Europe). Vital for the matrix, 40-50% of tomato production in Nigeria is lost due to poor handling, processing and storage practices. Across Africa, research has shown that between 20 and 40% of agricultural production in Africa is lost in transport. Common cash crops in Africa are cocoa, cotton and coffee. Initially, cocoa was a small-scale crop, but it has grown in popularity, with Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana accounting for 70% of global demand, while capturing only 3% of global chocolate industry revenue. , valued at $ 100 billion per year.

The African agricultural sector is also struggling not only with a lack of quality seeds and fertilizers, but also with low yields, pests and diseases and dizzying post-harvest losses due to poor storage and handling infrastructure. transport.

The antidote

Referring to the Nigerian tomato case study, some of the country’s conglomerates believe they can fill this supply gap. The Dangote Group has jumped into the fray after investing an initial $ 20 million in a tomato processing plant, while Lagos-based food maker Erisco Foods, Spanish food multinational GBfoods and Olam International , headquartered in Singapore, have taken steps to achieve the same.

The Maputo Declaration urged AU member states to allocate 10% of their national budgets to investments in agricultural activities. Central to the equation, the adoption of modern agricultural technologies has the potential to significantly boost African agriculture and make it more productive, competitive, sustainable and inclusive. These modern agricultural technologies include sensors, digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) devices, automated machinery and information technology. The combined efforts of the private sector and governments across the continent are imperative to resolve the current situation. It is access to markets and finance, security of tenure, investment in agribusiness, the creation of African commodity markets, knowledge and technology, and the right policies that are needed for go forward.

  • Mabunda is an analyst and TV presenter at Equity Axis, a leading financial research firm in Zimbabwe. – ebenm @ equityaxis


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