Africa could feed itself, says World Bank
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The World Bank has said that Africa’s farmers have the potential to grow enough food to feed the continent and avoid future food crises if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.
According to the World Bank report, the continent would also generate an extra 15 billion euros every year if African leaders can agree to dismantle trade barriers that diminish more regional dynamism.
The report was released Wednesday as ministers from African Union (AU) ministers were meeting at a summit on agriculture and trade in Addis Ababa.
The World Bank is urging African leaders to improve trade to ensure that food can move more freely between countries and from fertile areas to those where communities are suffering food shortages.
About 19 million people are living with the threat of hunger and malnutrition in west Africa’s Sahel region and the World Bank expects demand for food in Africa to double by the year 2020 as people increasingly continue to migrate to urban areas.
The institution’s Vice President Makhtar Diop said Africa has the ability to grow and deliver good quality food to put on the dinner tables of the continent’s families, but hastened to say that this potential is not being realised because farmers face more trade barriers in getting their food to market than anywhere else in the world.
He added that many times borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat.
According to the report, countries south of the Sahara 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.
It notes that huge tracts of fertile land, remain uncultivated and yields remain a fraction of those obtained by farmers elsewhere in the world.
The report says many African farmers have been effectively cut off from the high-yield seeds, affordable fertilizers and pesticides needed to expand their crop production and as a result the continent has turned to foreign imports to meet its growing needs in staple foods
Paul Brenton, World Bank’s Lead Economist for Africa and principal author of the report identified export and import bans, variable import tariffs and quotas, restrictive rules of origin, and price controls as other obstacles to greater African trade in food staples.
Creating a competitive environment in which governments encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production is the key challenge for the continent, Brenton claimed.
Last year the World Bank made 830,000 euros-worth of loans available to support agriculture in Africa.
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