Time to take Africa seriously: Tackling global food insecurity


Published: Thu 23 Jun 2022, 11:24 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 Jun 2022, 11:33 AM

It has been shocking to witness the exacerbation of issues of food security in the last three years. According to the UN, the number of people facing severe food insecurity has doubled in the last two years, with over 276 million now classified as being food insecure, representing a 500 per cent increase since 2016.

By Dozy Mmobuosi

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Resolving the deep-rooted issues underlying food security overwhelmingly depends on innovative funding, widening access to resources, and political will: the world already grows enough food for 10 billion people.

I believe that Africa holds the key to solving this issue and that it must now be taken seriously on the world stage when it comes to helping tackle global issues like food security. Africans are ready to work with global trading partners and make the most of a continent that has the potential to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Africa is home to over 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, with just 10 per cent of this land currently cultivated.

What Africa therefore needs is trade, not aid. Belief, not relief. Pivotal to these efforts is a truly coordinated approach by states and organisations to address the fundamental food security challenges facing millions.

Technology is therefore central to efforts aiming to firmly establish Africa as the world’s food basket as it remains apparent that smallholder farmers (comprising approximately 60 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population) will face an array of challenges from climate change to barriers to market access in the coming years.

Constantly evolving, technology ranging from supplying farmers with accurate weather forecasts to providing them with market access via mobile phones can circumvent existing challenges facing smallholders.

These people are the backbone of sub-Saharan Africa’s economy and must be supported. The result will be greater crop production and exports both domestically and internationally, via the likes of the African continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA), reducing food insecurity.

In no continent can the issue of food insecurity be seen more clearly than in Africa, and yet I firmly believe that this continent is ready for change, ready to meet its potential and able to not only feed itself but rather feed the world.

The tension between Ukraine and Russia has once again drawn the world's attention to the pressing issue of food security. With rapidly rising global inflation, the low costs of goods we have long taken for granted may be resigned to the history books.

No longer a hypothetical 'what if' scenario, the reality is that war has returned to Europe, wreaking havoc on global markets, increasing inflation and catastrophically hitting people’s wallets.

Between them, Russia and Ukraine produce almost one-third of the world’s wheat and barley and 50 per cent of its sunflower oil. Russia and Belarus are also the world’s second and third largest producers of potash, a key ingredient used for fertiliser.

The world needs solutions to our global food needs, and I remain adamant that Africa is ready to take on this challenge.

Recently discussing these issues in New York, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres called for five key measures to tackle food insecurity. Among these, he highlighted the need for governments to bolster agricultural production by investing in resilient food systems that protect smallholder farmers.

Moreover, Guterres also drew attention to eliminating barriers to market access for smallholder farmers across the world — a measure that is supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other such organisations.

The fact that Africa, with an abundance of arable, fertile land, is a net importer of agricultural produce yet continues to struggle to feed itself is simply baffling to me. I see no reason why the continent cannot become a truly global supplier of agricultural produce sustainably, making the most of both its natural resources and its entrepreneurial, youthful and energetic population.

If current trends continue, over 350 million Africans are expected to be undernourished by 2050. Such numbers frustrate me deeply as I know the untapped potential of this great continent.

Initiatives like those by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under its technologies for agricultural transformation (TAAT) programme are assisting over 40 million farmers to increase their harvest of heat-tolerant wheat, soybean, rice and other crops varieties, which are a great start in getting the ball rolling.

National governments, private individuals and international/regional businesses and organisations now should come together and address this issue first-hand. This is why it is great to see an event like Bloomberg Qatar Economic Forum (QEF) in Doha gather global political and business leaders to address global challenges like this on the world stage.

The expert panel at QEF discussed food security and how we should go about solving the issue, especially when it comes to embracing and utilising technology. Discussions like this pave the way for progress.

It is now time for the dominoes to fall and for Africa to act quickly and feed itself before going on to feed the world. The potential is there, and it is now down to us to harvest it as quickly and sustainably as possible.

Dozy Mmobuosi is a CEO of Tingo, Inc.

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