FORMER Nigerian president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has warned that as many as 80m Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to the continent’s food system.
Although Africa has not been ravaged buy the virus like Europe, North America or Asia, the continent has suffered immensely from the ensuing lockdown that has paralysed the global economy. Most African nations are wholly dependent on selling primary commodities but with global demand at an all-time low due to the closure of industries, getting hold of foreign exchange earnings has been impossible.
With no income coming in, most African nations have had to apply to the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for loans to enable them finance their 2020 budgets. Speaking on the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s website, Chief Obasanjo and former Ethiopian prime minister Desalegn Boshe, warned that the fallout from the pandemic could hit the continent hard.
They warned that the continent should be focused on food security, agribusiness and rural development if it wants to overcome dire economic consequences. In the publication, which the two former leaders co-authored, they also cautioned African countries against neglecting the rural poor.
It read: “Africa has so far escaped the worst health consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the continent looks like it could be the worst hit from the economic fallout of the crisis as 80m Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty if action is not taken and disruptions in food systems raise the prospect of more Africans falling into hunger.
“Rural people, many of whom work on small-scale farms, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the crisis. It is therefore vital that the Covid-19 response addresses food security and target the rural poor.
“Agriculture contributes 65% of Africa’s employment and 75% of its domestic trade, however, the rich potential of agriculture as a tool to promote food security and fight poverty is at risk from the effects of Covid-19. The effect of restrictive measures on food trade is especially worrying, in particular for food-importing countries but also because of the shrinking export markets for the continent’s farmers.”
“They warned African leaders to remember that investments in agriculture can be up to five times more poverty-reducing than those in other sectors. Around the world, small-farm dominated systems produce 50% of all food calories on 30% of the world’s agricultural land but in sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of farms are small.