BY Onome Amuge.
African agricultural experts have proposed an institutional infrastructural development and an efficient African food system to keep under control the economic impacts of global spikes in prices of fertilisers and other basic commodities currently plaguing the continent’s economy.
The experts made the call during a recent virtual meeting hosted by African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to discuss current global trends in the commodities market and impact on the continent’s agricultural sector.
Canisius Kanangire, executive director of AATF, in his remarks, said the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on food security has taken a heavy toll on countries highly dependent on wheat imports from the Black Sea region.
Kanangire observed that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to the largest commodity price shock since the 1973 oil crisis, elevating prices for years to come. He added that the crisis has exposed the vulnerability of Africa’s food systems.
On the way forward, the AATF director noted that the direct and indirect impact of the crisis on Africa’s agriculture deserves a closer look, not only on how it negatively impacts the sector but also considering emerging opportunities to rethink African agricultural investment going into the future.
Also speaking at the event, Ousmane Badiane, founder and executive chairperson of AKADEMIYA2063, an Africa-based non-profit research organisation, said Africans need to understand patterns in global shocks and the nature of vulnerability to save livelihoods.
Badiane urged African governments to implement institutional frameworks, including technical experts, that allow governments to anticipate and analyse impacts of the shocks.
“It is about our capacity to understand the shocks and plan around them. Even if we were to double Africa’s agricultural production today, the shocks in the global market would be transmitted to our local markets,” he stated.
The agricultural economist further explained that the fertiliser production challenges in Africa are due to low purchasing power by smallholder farmers. He lamented that Africa was still at risk and may not cushion itself because of the high cost of fertiliser production marked with low demand in the continent.
Kabir Ibrahim, national president, All-Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said that the vulnerability of Africa’s economy to various shocks, like the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war and insecurity, could only be mitigated by the evolution of an efficient “Africa food system”.
“All countries in Africa must commit to sizeable investments in agriculture to bolster their food systems to avert further stresses and challenges of food and physical insecurity pervading the entire continent,” he added.
Ibrahim described the smallholder farmers as the engine of agricultural production in Africa, but said they are faced with the challenge of low level of mechanisation. In that regard, he advised that farming machines and other modern facilities must be directly subsidised to the farmers to attain a reasonable level of food sufficiency.
Daniel Kyalo, a programme officer and policy expert at AATF, said the Russia-Ukraine crisis has exposed the vulnerability of Africa’s food systems, thereby raising the need for strategic actions to reduce the over-dependence on a few countries for strategic food commodities.
“There is a need to diversify the content of the food basket with inclusion of locally produced food commodities,” he said.
Kyalo also called for deeper penetration into agro-ecological diversity to boost production of priority crops through incentives for production, processing, blending and consumption of locally produced agricultural commodities.