A new World Bank report says that Africa’s farmers can potentially grow enough food to feed the continent and avert future food crises if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.
According to the Bank, the continent would also generate an extra US$20 billion in yearly earnings if African leaders can agree to dismantle trade barriers that blunt more regional dynamism.
The report was released on the eve of an African Union (AU) ministerial summit in Addis Ababa on agriculture and trade. The World Bank expects demand for food in Africa to double by the year 2020 as people increasingly leave the countryside and move to the continent’s cities.
“Africa has the ability to grow and deliver good quality food to put on the dinner tables of the continent’s families,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa. The new report suggests that if the continent’s leaders can embrace more dynamic inter-regional trade, Africa’s farmers, the majority of whom are women, could potentially meet the continent’s rising demand and benefit from a major growth opportunity.
It would also create more jobs in services such as distribution, while reducing poverty and cutting back on expensive food imports. Africa’s production of staple foods is worth at least US$50 billion a year.
A competitive food market will help poor people most, the report notes. For example, poor people in the slums of Nairobi pay more for their maize, rice, and other staple food than wealthy people pay for the same products in local supermarkets. The report underlines the importance of food distribution networks, which in many countries fail to benefit poor farmers and poor consumers.
“The key challenge for the continent is how to create a competitive environment in which governments embrace credible and stable policies that encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production across the region, so that farmers get the capital, the seeds, and the machinery they need to become more efficient, and families get enough good food at the right price.” said Paul Brenton, World Bank’s Lead Economist for Africa and principal author of the report.