During Africa Day celebrations on May 25, it was apparent that African states need to focus on critical factors such as food security, strong agricultural systems and proper health systems. The day coincided with the African Union’s (AU) 20th anniversary, whose theme was nutrition.
Hunger affects millions of households. As of 2020, in Africa, 282 million people experience hunger, more than double the proportion of any other region in the world, according to World Vision.
In East Africa alone, 7.2 million people are at risk of starvation and another 26.5 million are facing acute food insecurity, with at least 12.8 million children in the region experiencing malnourishment. The situation is worsened as a majority of countries face drought as the number of those going hungry continue to increase.
The ever increasing food prices, as imports dipped despite high demand in Africa, was almost immediate thanks to the on-going Russia-Ukraine conflict. If Africa’s dependency on food imports is not stopped in time, there will be serious consequences such as continued reliance on food donations, an increase in the number of people facing starvation and broken economies.
The journey towards food security will gather momentum once African countries embrace high-value crops to address nutrition needs while simultaneously responding to local and foreign market needs..
The AU can also play a role by ensuring that all member states focus on similar measures as African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) nears full implementation. Only then can the union stand together in ensuring food security for all, and ensure that healthcare is prioritised.
Investing more, and supporting the key sectors with policies that favour growth, especially technologically, will see African countries do better. The Covid health crisis was a true indication of how much some governments have failed to invest and support sectors that matter — from lacking testing equipment to lacking enough beds, Africa’s health workers, although holding firm with the available resources, were fighting a losing battle to begin with.
On one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic laid bare how African economies are vulnerable especially due to weak health and food systems. On the other hand, the pandemic brought significant changes not only in terms of peoples’ behaviours, but also how stuff works.
For the continent’s economy to soar, African governments must invest and support both the agriculture and the healthcare sectors. There should also be a critical balance where a stable economy, infrastructure, and security are given first priority.