For this to happen, African governments must change their food trade policies, World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop said.
He spoke Wednesday at a discussion to launch a report by the World Bank, “Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples.”
“Fragmented regional food markets and the lack of clear and predictable policies have dissuaded the private sector from making the investments that could allow Africa to achieve its potential in food,” Diop said.
He said for Africa to be able to feed itself, governments in Africa need to engage in a more open and inclusive dialogue with farmers and agricultural agencies on policies affecting food trade and food security. He said governments also need to engage their neighbors through their regional communities to pursue a collective approach to food security
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, over the last four years, the number of hungry people in Africa increased from 175 million to 239 million. It was the only world region where the number of hungry people rose.
According to the World Bank report, only 5 percent of Africa’s imports of cereals come from other African countries. Just 10 percent of the million acres of agricultural land in the Guinea Savanna zone, which covers much of Africa’s land suitable for farming, is currently cultivated. Demand for food is projected to double by 2020 in Africa’s rapidly growing cities. Farmers therefore need to be encouraged to cultivate more land and grow more food to meet these demands.
Mozambique’s Ambassador to the United States Amelia Matos Sumbana said Africa can feed its population if governments get things done right. She said the many problems of food in Africa have been identified, but what is left is the political will by governments to enhance policies of mutual regional trade.
Sumbana said that, in searching for a smooth regional food trade, Africa should not forget about food security because Africa is “still faced with the ghost of malnutrition, which still affects mothers and children across the continent.”
Daniel Karanja, vice president of the Partnership to Cut Hunger in Africa, an independent group focused on increasing U.S. assistance to African agricultural and rural development, said only Africans can solve their own problems. He said until local people are empowered it will be difficult for some of these problems to be solved.
“If we have done all these studies and understand the issues, why are there not changes?” he asked. “The only way there can be changes will be to involve farmers themselves as well as local people.”
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