Food insecurity in Africa is not just a socio-economic problem. It's also about human security, instead of wars and riots, riots and protests account for more than half of violent events in Africa today, according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) data. The recent violent protests sparked by domestic price hikes in Sierra Leone illustrate how inflationary pressures can easily lead to instability. Also, remember how the Arab revolts sparked protests across North Africa in the early 2010s.
High food prices tend to hit the most vulnerable households hardest, leaving them "multidimensionally poor," meaning they lack not only income but also access to electricity, cooking supplies, and basic social services. Shrinking budgets will lead households to sell off their wealth, undermining their ability to absorb future shocks. These indirect effects of the food crisis will limit economic activity, increase inequalities, and could trigger social tensions and unrest.
The impact of the war in Ukraine on food security in Africa raises three relevant questions: Why is the continent, with 60% of the world's arable land, unable to feed itself? Why is it difficult for African regions with food surpluses to feed those with deficits? And how has Africa gone from being a relatively self-sufficient food producer in the 1970s to an overly dependent food importer by 2022?
Answering these questions will help chart a path toward sustainable food security across the continent.
It is clear that food insecurity and the food crisis are having serious socio-economic and security implications for Africa's people, households, businesses, and governments - and these could have profound regional and global implications.
Now is not the time to backtrack on development efforts in Africa or divert resources from the continent. Strategic investment in development and food security at this critical juncture will lay the foundation for sustainability and self-sufficiency.
The European Union has pledged $630 million to help vulnerable nations deal with a food crisis exacerbated by Russia's war in Ukraine. The aid includes €150 million (US$158 million) in humanitarian aid to countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific and €350 million to promote sustainable food production in the long term.
Aljazeera reported on Tuesday that the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyena, said; “Russia's war of aggression is taking a heavy and senseless toll not only on the Ukrainian people but also on the most vulnerable around the world.
“Russia has been blocking millions of tons of much-needed grain.
"To help our partners, we will mobilize another 600 million euros to avoid a food crisis and an economic shock."
Both Russia and Ukraine export nearly a third of the world's wheat and barley, more than 70 per cent of sunflower oil, and are also major suppliers of corn.
The war between the two countries has prevented the export of around 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain to different countries and now the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) predicts that up to 181 million people in 41 countries are affected by a food crisis this year.
The EU and the UN are scrambling to broker a deal between Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey to get grain out, as Belgium is also looking to boost exports from Ukraine via rail routes.