Sustainable Food Security Still Remains Challenge For Africa – OpEd


Beyond the rapidly changing geopolitics, internal economic bottlenecks and all kinds of conflicts have shaken African governance, and posed tremendous challenges for ensuring food security in 1.3 billion population across Africa. The Russia-Ukraine crisis, which began late February 2022, has pushed prices of consumables resulting into high cost of living, thus complicating already existing economic obstacles across Africa. 

In an opinion article headlined “Why African leaders have a blind spot for Russia” first published by the Council of Councils from authors of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), said in part “African countries have not reacted well to Western pressure to condemn Russia. Their voting records in the UN General Assembly show the continent’s deep divisions.”

It further underscored that fact that Africa, however, has taken action. A senior African Union delegation traveled to Russia in June 2022 to seek safe passage for Ukrainian grain shipments. These talks paved the way for the Black Sea Grain Initiative between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. But, Africa gets too little credit for this rare diplomatic win. 

On March 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the plenary session of the international parliamentary conference on Russia-Africa, reassured that Russia has reliably been fulfilling all its obligations pertaining to the supply of food, fertilisers, fuel and other products that are critically important for African countries.

He pointed out that “Russia, guided by the needs of African countries, first and foremost, has recently agreed to extend the agreement concluded in Istanbul on the export of Ukrainian food through the Black Sea and the unblocking of Russian agricultural exports and fertiliser supplies for another 60 days.”

By the way, despite all the restrictions and limitations on the export of Russian grain, almost 12 million tonnes were sent from Russia to Africa, Putin said at the Russia-Africa parliamentary conference, and added (with an applause from the hall) that “if we decide not to extend this deal after 60 days, Russia will be ready to supply the same amount that was delivered under the deal, from Russia to the African countries in great need, at no expense.” 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said earlier on March 16 that the grain deal was extended by 60 days. As reported earlier, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Nations signed two documents in Istanbul on July 22, 2022 to set up a sea corridor for exporting grain from the Ukrainian seaports of Odessa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny and to lift barriers from exports of Russian food and fertilizers. The deal was now extended for 120 days in November 2022. 

Some argued that African leaders, analysing insights into what is going on in Ukraine, have to blame Russia for the negative economic effects and increasing instability in Africa. On the other hand, Russia, in an attempt to increase its geopolitical leverage, ultimately agreed this March, with much hesitation, to prolong the Black Sea grain deal. 

Russia’s initiatives on new possible instruments to encourage Russian exports to Africa is commendable, but African leaders have to adopt import substitution measures, maximally utilize resources to increase domestic production and this requires some external investment support in Africa. Perhaps, make a critical assessment of the capacity to engage in the agricultural sector, this should rather be the focus for African leaders when dealing with Russia.

In the broader context of the continued development of cooperation, Africa has to rethink a number of initiatives such grain imports from both Russia and Ukraine. Despite the climate change and natural disasters, Africa could still use its resources including the huge expanse of land combined with other resources including the vibrant youth and basic mechanisation to improve agricultural production.

Worth suggesting that African leaders have to learn from Zimbabwe – a landlocked southern African country. It is ready to cooperate in business with external countries and for the benefit of the people. Early February 2023, President Emmerson Mnangagwa recieved a large number of tractors, agricultural mechanization facility and other necessary instruments from Minsk, Belarus, for the agricultural sector. 

Zimbabwe and Belarus agreed also on semi-trailers with hydraulic manipulator for transportation of construction machinery, drop-side trucks, firefighting equipment critical in forest business and emergency rescue operations. Motorcycles and a complete set of spare parts for every type of machinery and equipment were delivered. Mnangagwa has reiterated that Zimbabwe is open for business. Zimbabwe has been looking foreign partners from other countries to transfer technology and industrialize its ailing economy. 

While a number of African countries largely depends on Russia and Ukraine for their regular supply of wheat and grains, even in spite of the persistent geopolitical warring situation, Zimbabwe has recorded its highest wheat harvest during the last agricultural production  in 2022. Thus, Zimbabwe emerges as one of the few African countries which has adopted import substitution agricultural policy and strategically working self-sufficiency.

Some experts and international development organizations have also expressed the fact that African leaders have to adopt import substitution mechanisms and use their financial resources on strengthening agricultural production systems. Establishing food security is important for millions of people facing hunger in Africa and is crucial for sustainable economic development in the continent. 

Addressing food security therefore, is key for a rising Africa in the 21st century. From various perspectives, African leaders have to focus and redirect both human and financial resources toward increasing local production, the surest approach to attain sustainable food security for over 1.3 billion population in Africa, and this falls within the framework of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *