Africa can help feed Africa

Africa can help feed Africa

October 24, 2012. WASHINGTON –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.

According to the new reportAfrica Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples ― rapid urbanization 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 realized 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.”

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.

Moreover, the new report notes that only five percent of all cereals imported by African countries come from other African countries while huge tracts of fertile land, around 400 million hectares, remain uncultivated and yields remain a fraction of those obtained by farmers elsewhere in the world.

The report was released on the eve of an African Union (AU) ministerial summit in Addis Ababa on agriculture and trade. The African Union unexpectedly postponed the Joint Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and Ministers of Trade scheduled to take place on 1st and 2nd November in Addis Ababa just four days before it was due to start.

A press release announcing the postponement said new dates will be communicated soon. (Source: ECDPM October 26, 2012: Lost opportunity to build bridges: African Ministers of Agriculture and Trade meeting postponed)

Participants at the meeting
on food safety.

29-30 October 2012. The African Union (AU) aims to institute a food safety authority as well as a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), so as to boost trade competence and avert food-borne diseases. This was announced at the opening of a two-day workshop in Kigali.

Prof. Ahmed El Sawalhy, the Director of the AU’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AUBAR), which organised the workshop, observed that the establishment of the authority would boost trade and uplift the living standards of Africans, especially those in rural areas.

The workshop attracted food safety specialists and managers from member states and representatives from regional economic communities and the African Union Commission.

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