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 could agree to dismantle trade barriers that blunted 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 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.
With as many as 19 million people living with the threat of hunger and malnutrition in West Africa’s Sahel region‚ the bank report urges African leaders to improve trade so that food can move more freely between countries and from fertile areas to those where communities are suffering food shortages.
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.
According to the new report “Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples”‚ rapid urbanisation will challenge the ability of farmers to ship their cereals and other foods to consumers when the nearest trade market is just across a national border.
Countries south of the Sahara‚ for example‚ could significantly boost their food trade over the next several years to manage the deadly impact of worsening drought‚ rising food prices‚ rapid population growth‚ and volatile weather patterns.
With many African farmers effectively cut off from the high-yield seeds‚ and the affordable fertilizers and pesticides needed to expand their crop production‚ the continent has turned to foreign imports to meet its growing needs in staple foods.
“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.
“However‚ this potential is not being realised because farmers face more trade barriers in getting their food to market than anywhere else in the world. Too often borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat”.