Africa’s population could double its current 1.3 billion (2019) by 2050. Findings have shown that more than half of the world’s population growth will occur in Africa by 2050. While the continent was still battling with food shortage as a result of floods, drought and devastating diseases, the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the situation, dealinga big blow to farmers across borders.
Consequently, the situation has led to decline in the production and availability of food, affecting many SMEs that are essential to food supply chains. Unfortunately, Africa’s agriculture sector still lacks the technological innovation thatcould aid the continent to provide sufficient food for its people.
As of 2018, Africa imported huge food from various countries across the world, costing more than $47 billion. “The recent devaluation of several African currencies, combined with declining commodity prices, has put further stress on African countries’ capacity to ensure food and nutrition security.” (Culled from African In Focus). According to McKinsey report, “about 23% of Africa’sGDP comes from agriculture while 60% of its economically active population live on agriculture.” Unfortunately, the pandemic has greatly affected this critical area of Africa’s economies.
Coupled with above, are security challenges from political, religious or ethnic that has gone further to worsen an already bad situation. The internecine wars ravaging many African states is limping investment in development including agriculture. From ISIS in North Africa, Boko Haram in West Africa, are features straining the economy.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has equally called for transformation in food systems in order to achieve a sustainable and an inclusive global economy. According to him, “We cannot forget that food systems contribute up to 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions, including 44% of methane, and are having a negative impact on biodiversity.” Consequently, Guterres admonished countries to build food systems that could address the needs of producers and workers. Mr. Guterres further stressed that “Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults.”
With these are many others, it is imperative for leadership within and outside Africa, to take notice and begin to take some deliberate action plans to minimize if not eliminate the impending doom. Some quick actions should include the following:
- Improved technological innovation: although governments across Africa have provided various intervention programmes to curtail the economic impact of the pandemic, the situation requires long-term innovative and strategic solutions. In order for Africa to survive the impending food shortage, Africa’s farmers, governments, policy-makers and concerned stakeholders in the agribusinesses must come up with a different approach to agriculture business, particularly technological innovations.
- High quality food: the need to achieve high quality food products with the use of technologies cannot be overemphasised. Consequently, technological innovationswill invariably promote improved economic growth and development while food losses will be drastically curtailed during harvest and post-harvest activities. Also, it will help in the effective storage of harvested products with a view to increasing the value of harvested goods.
- Improved irrigation systems: another vital area where technology should be used to improve food security is in the area of soil and water management. This is needed in order to achieve efficient irrigation technologies and thus address water constraints, being one of the major challenges confronting farmers, particular in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Improved pest and disease control: pest and disease control has been one of the critical challenges that poses threat to food security in Africa. The global chemical and biological pesticide control have been a fast-growing market over the years. Hence focus on innovations and technological development with a view to achieving healthy produce remains critical to securing sufficient food.
- Supply chain: there is need for new approach to supply chain, food safety procedures and well-functioning and resilient food system architecture in order for Africa to able to feed its growing population. No doubt, modern agriculture technologies remain essential in order for Africa’s food systems to become more sustainable and resourceful. Therefore, there is the need to harness science and technology for the numerous scopes of food security.
- Research and development: part of the steps toward food security is by promoting research and innovations that focus on smallholder farmers with a view to expanding capacity and infrastructure development that promotes and strengthens agricultural innovation among technologists, farmers and relevant stakeholders.
- Water management: in view of the foregoing, investing in water management and infrastructure cannot be overemphasised. Such investments, to a large extent,will definitely create jobs and increase economic growth and development across nations.
- Increase in food production: “In order to feed more than 9 billion people, food production must increase by 50% by 2050. Grain remains the most important source of calories for the majority of the world’s population. In particular, the annual demand for maize, wheat and rice is expected to reach 3.3 billion tonnes by 2050.”(Sources: World Resources Institute; United Nations)
In view of the foregoing, it is important for Africa to learn two major lessons to learn:
- If countries that are more technologically advanced are pushing for more agriculture, buying and storing food, then, Africa with less mechanisation and less agriculture growth should rise to the occasion by maximising its huge potentials that lie in the agriculture sector.
- It is important that African leaders should come to terms by strengthening regional trans-border trades with a view to expanding the capacity and productivity in the agro business.
- The world will not wait for Africa to put its house in order. Instead innovation, will make Africa to be irrelevant in the equation.
- China as it buys up food, is also ramping up production of food with innovation, developing low level technology. Africa can learn from this.
While the world remains a global village, it is critical for Africa, still struggling to catch up to intensifying preparation to mitigate against imminent food shortages as there may not be anywhere to run to.