In light of the current pandemic, Africa looks like it could be the worst hit from the economic fallout of the crisis: 80 million 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 address food security and target the rural poor.
At this time, the international development agenda is prioritizing health, economies and infrastructure. But there must also be a focus on food security, agribusiness and rural development. This is especially important on the African continent.
Agriculture contributes 65 per cent of Africa’s employment and 75 per cent 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.
In March, the UN Economic Commission for Africa predicted growth in Africa would drop from 3.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent in 2020. Within the continent, lockdowns are disrupting inter-regional trade. The effect of restrictive measures on food trade is especially worrying, in particular for food-importing countries, but also because of shrinking export markets for the continent’s farmers.