Food insecurity is rising, we must invest in Africa’s farming future now

Vegetable farming. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

We are facing a global food crisis—and Africa is especially at risk. We see this in Eastern Africa, where the longest drought in 40 years and rising food and fuel prices driven in part by the war in Ukraine are threatening food security across the region.

Recent estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) forecast that up to 26 million people will face a food crisis or higher levels of food insecurity in Somalia, and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya by the end of January.

In Malawi, another season of below‑average rainfall is forecast, which will likely reduce harvests. And in Rwanda, the country’s reliance on rain-fed agriculture leaves it particularly vulnerable to climate shocks.

While many global factors are beyond Africa’s control, there is still much that can be achieved within the continent to strengthen food production systems, build greater resilience to climate change, and reduce the reliance on imports.

To meet immediate needs, IFC has just launched a $6 billion Global Food Security Platform to help stabilise volatile food markets, strengthen supply chains, and ensure that people have access to affordable food.

Africa will be a key focus of this new funding initiative, which in the longer term will seek to boost food production, improve supply chains, and encourage more sustainable production practices. These are areas where increased private sector participation and investment can make a real difference.

The private sector is already a strong partner across Africa’s agribusiness value chains, though dramatically more investment is needed to help the continent boost production to feed its rapidly growing population and reduce its growing reliance on imports, estimated at $35 billion annually.

According to some estimates, Africa needs an additional $45 billion annually to realise its full agriculture potential across areas such as storage, fertiliser, irrigation and improved seed. The challenge is daunting—adequately funding and modernising a sector that contributes a quarter of Africa’s GDP and 70 percent of its employment—and numerous private sector solutions are already helping address that challenge.

The writer is IFC's Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

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