The Russia-Ukraine war is causing food shortages in Africa and now the US is moving to help bridge the impending food crisis. Is it a goodwill gesture or a power play?
What most people don’t know is that, Africa is heavily dependent on cereal from Russia and Ukraine to bridge its annual demand gap. However, thanks to the war, Africa is short by a whopping 30 million metric tons of cereals; if the gap is not covered, people will starve.
Both the US and Russia have offered Africa some kind of strategic alliance proposal with each pledging to be the better partner for the continent. After their proposals, they both have invited African leaders for a trade and political relation summit, the US in December, Russia sometime next year.
- Africa is 30 million metric tonnes short of cereals
- US commits US$4.5 billion to address global food security
- Africa still does not meet the 10% Maputo commitment to agriculture
Meanwhile, Africa is looking to take pre-emptive action to avert the inevitable food crisis.
The United States has pledged support to help the continent grow and distribute more food. The aid will come through the African Development Bank (AfDB). The Bank is looking to fund a significant increase in food production in an effort to ward off the food crisis wrought by the Russia-Ukraine war.
In May this year, the AfDB set up a US$1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility. It was established with the aim of supporting some 20 million smallholder farmers produce more food and to do so more sustainably.
According to the Bank officials, the money will increase access to climate-smart and certified cereals and subsidize other agro-inputs like fertilizer and extension services.
Should the initiative work, the AfDB hopes to increase food production by some 38 million tonnes over the next four farming seasons. Now here is some food for thought, the investment pledged is US$1.5 billion but the four harvests are valued at over US$12 billion. The US wants to be part of this solution for Africa.
The US made its intention clear at that G7 summit where President Joe Biden led the other G7 leaders to contribute US$4.5 billion not just for Africa but ‘to address global food security.’
Taking the lead, the United States footed half of that commitment US$760 million, ‘to combat the effects of high food, fuel, and war-driven fertilizer prices in those countries that need this support most.’
Also, to help Africa address severe food insecurity that is caused by extreme weather events, the United States is willing to back the African Development Bank’s Africa Disaster Risk Financing programme.
The disaster programme supports African governments’ response to such disasters by providing access to drought and flood insurance. On behalf of Africa, the AfDB was more than happy to accept US support.
“I am delighted about the significant announcement and contributions made by President Joe Biden…to address global food security,” local media quoted Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.
He underscored that the US government’s response to the global food security challenge is, in his words, ‘…a tremendous boost to our efforts and other institutions who are working hard to support African countries at this particular time of need.’
To ice the cake, the Bank’s top executive closed his speech with a declaration of gratitude; ‘We warmly and wholeheartedly embrace the support by the United States and other G7 member nations,” he said.
A Roadmap for global food security
To express its commitment that same month, May, the US launched the Roadmap for Global Food Security, backed by some ninety-four countries. Africa was not to be left behind, and the AfDB pledged US$1.3 billion to foot the African Emergency Food Production Facility budget.
All things considered, Africa may avert the food crisis after all. The AfDB’s African Emergency Food Production programme is set to ensure the production of some 38 million tonnes of cereals; 11 million tonnes of wheat, 18 million tonnes of maize, six million tonnes of rice and 2.5 million tonnes of soybeans.
The TAAT platform was conjured in 2019 to help Africa increase cereal production by producing more weather-tolerant seed varieties. Thanks to the programme, 1.8 million farmers across seven countries are supplied with resilient varieties, and since its onset, TAAT has facilitated increased wheat production by 2.7 million tonnes.
Under the TAAT umbrella, the AfDB is helping provide affordable fertilizer to small-scale farmers in the prescribed four farming seasons through the provisions of what it is calling smart subsidies.
The subsidies are backed by farmers’ digital technologies and several other financial instruments. More importantly, the AfDB is also working to push the African government to commit to policy reform that will attract investment all along the agro-business value chain.
Why Africa is ignoring its Maputo Declaration commitment
The Maputo Declaration is a pact that was signed by almost all African countries in the Mozambique capital of Maputo in 2003, almost two decades ago.
The signatories of the Maputo declaration agreed to dedicate 10% of their annual budgets to developing agricultural production in their countries, but very few have done so to date.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Africa is far from meeting the Maputo declaration; in fact, most African countries are spending less in agriculture than the rest of the world. So it is no surprise that the continent is facing a food crisis every time there is a weather change, a pandemic or a war.
After analysing 10 years of data from several African governments’ spending, it is obvious few countries are living up to the Maputo declaration. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report revealed that of the 13 countries that were analysed, most spend just about 6% of their budgets on food and agriculture.
“Even when funding was allocated to agriculture, it often went unspent…on average, 21% of budgets devoted to food and agriculture were not spent, a number that rises to 40% for donor-funded expenditures,” the report said.
It is a vicious and disastrous cycle, the governments are not spending even the little budget that they do allocate to agriculture and because of that, then they cannot issue additional funding to the sector; “Large portions of allocated funds going unspent may be a reason why governments are reluctant to increase food and agricultural expenditure,” says the FAO report.
Should African countries commit to meeting the Maputo declaration, then these food shortages would not occur and aid would not be necessary at all.