Knowledge for better food systems

The World Bank: Africa can help feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples

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 food trade within the region. The report goes onto say that Africa has enough fertile farm land, water, and favorable climates to feed itself, yet it is forced to import ever-larger amounts of food from outside the region to keep up with rising demands across the continent.

Urbanization is largely to blame for the loss of smallholder agricultural production and increase in food importation. With smallholders receiving less than 20% of the market price for products, they are switching to cash crop production, with the result that locally-grown food ends up being significantly more expensive than foreign imports. This cycle is leading to increased urban migration, reduced food production, and increased demand for imported food.

The report does offer some success stories that can potentially serve as models for other countries. Mozambique has, consistently, freely allowed both imports and exports of maize. Traders in Northern Mozambique routinely sell their grain to Malawi and Eastern Zambia, which enables the resulting deficits in Mozambique’s southern cities to be met by imports from South Africa, which has allowed trade to stabilize prices in the capital compared to other capital cities in the region.

For the full report, see here.



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The 54 countries in Africa – from the dry northern African nations, through those in deserts and rainforests, all the way to the temperate parts of South Africa – are hugely varied in their ethnic, cultural, climatic, geographic, and economic aspects. The continent’s population of over a billion inhabitants, with a median age of 19.7 years, is the youngest in the world. Due to both its localised epidemics of hunger and its huge untapped agricultural potential, Sub-Saharan Africa specifically is a key focus area for many NGOs and development agencies interested in food production and security.

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