Africa food - its impact on regional and global stability and unrest

What will the regional and global repercussions be if food security is not addressed?

Teresa Pinto:

First it has become obvious in recent years that food crisis and food insecurity have a direct impact on stability, social stability and security.

So this became evident in 2007 and 2008 when there were food price spikes, and after that there were food riots and protests in 48 countries all over the world. And later in 2011 there was another historical peak in food prices, and the result was a historical peak in food prices. And the result was social unrest that would eventually end up with regime change in countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

The interesting thing to note is that in Libya, 90 per cent of the grain that was consumed was imported. So we’re talking about a population that was extremely vulnerable to price shocks. And they felt the increase in grain prices, they felt it in their daily life. And it had a huge impact.

So we can say these uprisings, they cannot be dissociated from food insecurity, especially in urban environments where people are net buyers of food.

What are the key challenges for African countries dealing with issues with food security?

Teresa Pinto:

Looking at Africa and considering the near future I would say there are two main challenges concerning food security. If African governments cannot deal with these challenges I believe that there will be regional and international consequences.

The first one is population growth. Population in Africa is expected to read 2 billion by 2050. However, with current prediction levels persist in agriculture Africa will only be able to produce 13 per cent of the food it will need to feed its population.

So this means there are only two options. Whether the governments import all the food that they need but cannot produce, and this will make them extremely vulnerable to price shocks. Or they have to drastically increase agricultural production. And not only agricultural production, but also the affordability and accessibility of this food for its populations.

The second challenge - maybe is more a sub-challenge than a challenge – is the rapid urbanization that is happening across Africa. And in some urban centres governments and cities do not have the ability to absorb this rapidly growing population. And they cannot meet the basic demands of these people.

And what happens in the urban centers in Africa? The populations are growing even faster in slums. So we are talking about a huge concentration of people who live in extremely adverse circumstances. And these urban dwellers, they are net buyers of food, they do not produce food.

They buy food and they have to use a huge amount of their already low incomes in buying food. So they are even more vulnerable than the vulnerable to price shocks.

And this may, in the future, contribute to widespread violence, and even to a weakening of the central power of governments because it is part of their job to create safety nets and to guarantee their social security. And if they do not fulfill those requirements there will be more contestation.