“African countries should seize this moment of crisis to rebuild sustainable food systems”

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Grandstand. While the first shipments of cereals from Ukraine are beginning to be delivered to the markets thanks to the agreement negotiated by the UN and Turkey, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has reminded us of the extent to which control of food supplies is a lever major geopolitics. In this context, “strategic autonomy” has become the mantra of the day. Nevertheless, countries face very different options when it comes to putting it into practice.

The subject is crucial in Africa, where the food deficit is increasing due to high urban growth, low agricultural productivity, increasing climate impacts and limited investments in agriculture and food systems. This deficit has jumped from 10% of food needs in 1970 to 20-25% today.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further aggravates the situation. According to the latest data, more than 750 million people live in countries that import between 50 and 100% of their grain needs from Ukraine and Russia. Of these countries, fourteen of the most vulnerable are in Africa. In addition to having outsourced their cereal production, many of them buy their fertilizers on the other side of the world – in Russia in particular – which has further weakened them.

Many “neglected” cultures

In order to be able to build more resilient agri-food systems in Africa, several measures should be considered, some for the immediate future and others in the longer term.

More public investment in the agro-food sector. Within the framework of the Maputo declarations in 2003, supplemented in Malabo in 2014 by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), African governments have pledged to devote 10% of their public expenditure to food and agriculture. Yet a 2018 stocktake showed that less than half of Africa’s 54 countries had matched their resource commitments. And the Covid-19 pandemic has further tightened public funding. However, CAADP has helped many governments design national agricultural investment strategies and adopt a food systems approach, which now needs to be strengthened.

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