A grain revolution for Africa
Africa never ceases to surprise the world with its existential contradictions. We know about its “resource curse”, the generic term that bundles all these contradictions. But, as the previ ous article points out, the contradictions in the agriculture sector are stark. The continent has 65 per cent of the world’s arable lands that are yet to be cultivated. If cultivated, it could feed over 9 billion people, more than the world’s population. Yet, it has one-third of the world’s underfed population. By 2030, its agri-business potential would be US $1 trillion, but this will be only because of being the world’s only continent to be a net food importer. While Africa has other pressing developmental challenges such as malnourishment, growing health burden and the threat of climate change, the continent spends the most on importing food, which otherwise could have been spent in such programmes. Moreover, the continent will have the world’s largest population in a few years; it already records the fastest population growth. For a continent where agriculture still employs the most, it is no more an existential contradiction, but a real threat to a decent existence. For more than three decades the continent has been a net importer of agricultural products. But what is stifling is the change in the nature of food imports. The continent has been importing basic foodstuffs such as dairy products, edible oils and cereals, implying that food imports have become increasingly important to ensure food security. In the continent’s most densely populated region—the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)—40 to 60 per cent of smallholder farmers are absolute buyers of staple foods. They spend more on food than they earn from selling agricultural produce.