Hunger Stalks Africa: Nations Should be Food Self-Sufficient
February 27, 2020
Right now, as I write, two regions of Africa are experiencing food emergencies: East Africa and Southern Africa. This is a crime against humanity. There is no objective reason for starvation and malnutrition in this continent rich with arable land. Actions should be taken today, not tomorrow, to reverse this life threatening, but preventable food shortage. It is morally repugnant to witness so many human beings perishing due to the persistence of poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa.
On January 20th, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) requested a mere $76 million to combat the spread of the destructive Desert Locusts. A just released joint statement-UN Joint Statement on Locust in East Africa signed by several organizations, Locust in Africa: A Race Against Time, reports that since February, the locust swarms originally sighted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, have spread to South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, and have reached the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not since a locust incursion since 1944. With the expansion of the locust invasion, the FAO has doubled its request for emergency funding to $138 million, of which only $33 million, less than 25% has been collected of pledged.
In this region of the world the food supply is already so fragile that 20 million Africans are deemed food insecure. Experts estimate that a one square kilometer swarm of Desert Locusts can consume as much food as 35,000 people in one day, which potentially increases the number of food insecure Africans in this zone to almost 40 million.
The joint communique boldly states: “The next wave of locusts could devastate East Africa’s most important crop of the year, right when it is most vulnerable. But that doesn’t have to happen. The Window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now.”
The statement concludes: “It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more late.”
Simultaneously, on the Southern end of the Africa continent; Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Lesotho, and Eswanti (Swaziland) are also facing shortages of food.
Journalist, Shannon Ebrahim, reports that “according the World Food Program (WFP), 7.7 million Zimbabweans are facing the worst hunger emergency in a decade…An astounding 90% of infants are malnourished and have stunted growth.” However, severe food shortages are not limited to Zimbabwe
“In Angola, 2.4 million are affected by food insecurity, where children are barely eating one meal a day. World Vision staff in Angola report they have never seen hunger and malnutrition on this scale.
“In Zambia, 2.3 million are facing acute hunger, and in Eswatini 24% of the population are suffering food shortages. In Lesotho, 20% of the population is food insecure
WFP regional director for southern Africa Lola Castro has said, “The hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve never seen before and evidence shows it’s going to get worse.”
Ebrahim writes, “As a result of drought, widespread flooding, and economic problems, 45 million people in southern Africa are facing food shortages.”
Hunger Can Be Eliminated
Droughts, locusts, and other disasters that contribute to food insecurity may not easily be prevented, but human intervention can mitigate and surmount so called natural catastrophes. However, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to persist in a continent of abundant, fertile, arable land.
Food self-sufficiency, which is a national security priority, in this age of out sized and exaggerated globalization, has worsened in the majority of African nations over the last several decades. Not only does this jeopardize the health and existence of society, but it drains nation’s foreign reserves with mega-food import expenditures.
The most critical, essential, fundamental, and undeniable ingredient to a successful agricultural sector, as well as a manufacturing sector, is infrastructure. It is the sine qua non for progress. Africa is suffering from a lack of infrastructure, particularly in the most crucial categories of hard infrastructure; electrical power and railroads. No concerned official in Africa or from a friendly government, who does not place their emphasis on energy and rail, is not helping African nations to develop. No NGO activist, no matter how sincere, who does not advocate for such infrastructure is not truly helping Africans to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, hunger, and disease.
I do not make these statements lightly. Without massive construction of hard infrastructure, African nations will not have productive agricultural and manufacturing sectors capable of producing the physical goods necessary for society’s continued existence. This is a scientific-economic reality.
Why are trees being cut down across the Sahel? To provide firewood and charcoal for cooking. This is foolishness. Trees are one of the best means to reverse the march of the desert. However, trees are being cut down, because homes do not have access to electricity and gas. If a portion of the tens of billions of dollars being spent on “global warming” were spent providing electricity to the nations of the Sahel, the counterproductive practice of charcoaling would be eliminated. If we built the decades’ overdue East West railroad, along with irrigating the desert (again energy) we could, can, transform the desert.
Why should over 100 million Africans face food insecurity on this rich African continent? The truth is; there is no acceptable reason. Our own lack of action speaks volumes.
Hunger and Poverty Are Killing Africa’s Children. It is a Crime Against Humanity: Must Cease Now!
Although I do not agree in full with the analysis in the report: “For Lack of Will: Child Hunger in Africa,” written by the Ethiopian based African Child Policy Forum-ACPF, none the less, it provides a startling study of the horrific effects of hunger on Africa’s children that should be read by all. (See link below for PDF).
The study states that child hunger in Africa is increasing, and presents the following shocking statistics on hunger in Africa:
Globally 10,000 children die every day due to hunger, and in Africa, hunger contributes to about 45% of childhood mortality. One third of child deaths in Africa is attributable to micronutrient deficiencies. Almost half of all child deaths on the continent are caused by hunger!
Ninety per cent of children do not meet the criteria for minimum acceptable diet.
Sixty per cent of children do not meet the minimum meal frequency.
In 2017 alone 14 million children were affected by wasting.
Africa Needs Real Economic Growth
The report correctly identifies poverty as the primary cause for hunger-access to food, estimating that in 2013, 49% of children in sub-Saharan Africa lived in extreme poverty-less than $2 per day.
Unfortunately, the report commits a fundamental error when it repeats the commonly accepted specious statistics of economic growth for African nations.
“Growth in Africa over the last two decades has been impressive by historical and world standards. But it has not been inclusive, with little impact on child hunger.”
If African economies had experienced real physical growth over recent years, then poverty and hunger would have declined. Instead, both poverty and hunger have increased in many sections of the sub-Saharan continent.
The reports of economic growth are inflated in a specific way; they do not measure real physical growth, but substitute calculations of price valuations of goods and services. There is a fundamental difference, which I will repeat here, because the actual criteria of economic growth is poorly understood.
Very briefly, true economic growth refers to enhancements in the physical production of goods necessary to sustain an expanding population at a constantly improving standard of living. The success of this growth depends on three essential features of an economy. An integrated infrastructure platform of rail, road, energy, and water. A viable manufacturing sector. Plus, the application of continued technology and scientific progress by an educated and healthy workforce. Of course, there is much more to be considered, but these requirements are indispensable. Simply adding up the price-valuations of extracted raw materials, real estate, services, stock exchanges, bank profits, etc. are measurements of monetarist values; not economic growth. Read my early post for fuller analysis: Africa Needs Real Economic Growth Not IMF Accountants
Various sleight of hand tricks and out right sophistry has been used to hide the reality that despite reports of so-called economic growth, poverty is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, disproportionately compared to the rest of the world. Fallacious explanations have been given, like jobless economic growth, or growth that has not trickled down to the people, or non-inclusive growth. However, the bold truth is that Africa has not experienced the reputed growth that has been touted by all the financial intuitions, which sadly many Africans still believe and repeat.
According to this study, malnourishment has increased from 215.5 million in 2014 to 256.5 million in 2017. Other indicators of Africa’s poverty are; 338 million Africans living in extreme poverty, and 3.2 million children under the age of 5 die each other. Applying the figure of 45% of child deaths due to hunger, this would mean approximately 1.5 million African children die from hunger-poverty yearly.
What Need To Be Done
Under the section: “What is to be done?” the report states “No child should go hungry. This is a moral imperative.” I would add, that no adult, no human being should go hungry. While the study calls for radical transformative policies to be put in place, which is absolutely true, it then calls for “…government commitment to giving greater political visibility to ending child hunger.”
This is a grossly inadequate response to genocidal like elimination of Africans due to hunger. Since the liberation of African nations from colonial rule over six decades ago, the glaring lack of infrastructure and industrialization has plagued the continent. It has led to crippled economies, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of Africans, which were preventable. While infrastructure in roads, rail, energy, ports etc. has finally begun to be built in the last decade, it is insufficient to address the glaring need of Africa’s existing 1.2 billion people and projected 2.5 billion by 2050.
Nothing less than a brute-force military-like commitment by Africans and their allies to inundate-saturate the continent with infrastructure, is required. This is the only pathway to eliminating hunger and poverty. It should have been done years ago. It must be done now.
We Can Prevent Famine from Killing Millions of Africans
March 17, 2017
Famine is stalking Africa, threatening unprecedented levels of starvation. Famine has already been officially declared in parts of South Sudan’s Unity State, Somalia, and sections of the Borno State in Nigeria. Somalian officials reported 110 human beings perished from hunger in forty-eight hours in one region in the first days of March. One cannot imagine how parents cope watching their children slowly, painfully expire. Famine in Africa is not only unconscionable, but a crimes against humanity, because it can be prevented.Only through an entirely new paradigm, that eliminates poverty through infrastructure led development, which can and must be done, will death by starvation finally be eradicated from the entire continent. In over 30 years China has lifted 750 million of its people out of poverty, and has pledged to help Africa eliminate poverty from its vast continent as well. Nothing less than this is acceptable. What is urgently required is; intention and vision for a better future.
A Partial Overview
The United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council that the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945. More than 20 million people in four countries are facing starvation and famine, O’Brien said, and that “without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease.” The four nations facing immediate catastrophe are; Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies reports that nineteen African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity. This includes 17 million people in the Horn of Africa; Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, and millions more in Central African Republic, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique are also in danger of acute food insecurity.
According to international food organizations, famine is declared if more than 30% of the population is acutely malnourished; one in five households within a vicinity face extreme food shortages; and two or more people or four children die per 10,000 daily.
Of its 6.2 million population, more than half are in need of aid, with 2.9 million requiring immediate assistance, and 270,000 children suffering acute malnutrition. Somalia has suffered two consecutive years of drought. In the 2011 famine, Somalia lost 260,000 people; over half were children under the age of five. Many experts fear that unless immediate action is taken there is the potential of a full blown famine, possibly exceeding the 2011 death totals.
As this poor landlocked nation is approaching its sixth anniversary of independence, its living conditions are horrific. The UN reports: almost 5 million people- 40% of the population are in desperate need of food; and 100,000 people in Unity State are presently struggling to survive the reality of famine. UNICEF reports that 1 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished, and 270,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition.
Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin
In the four nations of Lake Chad Basin; Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, the UN estimates that 10.7 million people require assistance, with 7.1 million categorized as food insecure. In the Northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, the UN reports that 400,000 children are at risk of from famine, with 75,000-90,000 facing immediate danger of dying from hunger.
Humanitarian Aid Is Insufficient
To avert the further spread of famine, UN Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres has requested upwards $5.6 billion, with a majority of the funds needed as soon as the end of March, the New York Times reported. Guiterees also appealed for $825 million in aid to address drought and cholera in Somalia. So far only a small portion of these goals have been met.
In response to drought, famine, and other disasters, emergency aid is necessary to save lives, and is a moral responsibility. However, we must have the courage to admit to ourselves that simply providing aid is an inadequate response by the UN and international community. Yes, many of these nations suffer from the interrelationship of civil strife, and famine. A paramount underlying cause of both is the inability to provide the basic necessities of life due to severe underdevelopment of their economies. This essential and fundamental truth has been overlooked or deliberately ignored for over five decades, until the recent extension of China’s Silk Road onto the African continent.
In the years following the “Winds of Change” as African nations freed themselves from the yoke of colonialism, many became food self sufficient or nearly so due to abundant fertile soil. Objectively, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to exist anywhere in Africa. Given the large areas of uncultivated, but arable land available in Africa (the most abundant on the planet), Africa not only has the potential to feed its own expanding population, but also become a net food exporter to Asia. Thus to die from hunger is not only criminally immoral, but actually “un-African” at its roots. The not so secret missing ingredient for Africa to achieve its agricultural potential is: physical economic development of vital infrastructure.
What is Actually Required to Prevent Famine
All functioning, i.e. growing economies depend on a platform of integrated infrastructure especially in categories of rail, energy, roads, and water projects, because of their essential, irreplaceable contribution in raising the productivity of the labor force. It has been the failure of Western institutions to assist the emerging nations of Africa in securing the necessary infrastructure across the continent that is the long term cause for the crisis that African nations face today. Some may object to such an analysis, but history has proved that it is the long waves of policy that shape the present and the future. After suffering hundreds of years of slavery that ripped the social fabric of the continent apart and tortured the cultural soul of Africa, it was followed by another century of brutal-exploitive colonialism. The best form of justice would have been to assist these newly formed nations in becoming economically sovereign. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy had this vision, but tragically it was not shared by other leaders.
Lack of economic growth has a great deal to do with ethnic warfare and the spread of terrorism. Poor people, reaching to find enough water, food, and land for the very survival of themselves and their loved ones become desperate, and desperate people become victims of manipulation in violent conflicts, as well as easy recruits to extremist groups. Economic growth that provides the citizens with means to exist, and hope for a better future, is the great “mitigator” against desperation and alienation that leads to violence.
So far mankind has not been able to prevent draughts, but mankind can prevent draughts from causing famine. How? With infrastructure, nations can mitigate the deadly effects of draughts; by utilizing irrigation, and water management projects, generating sufficient energy to pump water; railroads for transporting food to the needy from other parts of the state and from other countries not as severely affected, and by creating integrated industrial–agricultural sectors capable of producing a surplus of food.
Can one deny that the extreme poverty rampant throughout the nations of the Lake Chad Basin is not a major factor for the spread of Boko Haram? Can anyone deny that the paucity of electrical power for Nigeria’s 190 million people along with sky high rates of youth unemployment are not contributing factors to the multifaceted crisis in north-east Nigeria? Was it not patently obvious that the creation of the new nation of South Sudan without first establishing a stable economy providing the basic needs for its people, especially food, was at serious risk from the beginning?
For example, had the East-West railroad, connecting the Horn of Africa along the Gulf of Eden and Indian Ocean across West Africa to the Atlantic Ocean been built Africa would have achieved new levels of economic growth for all the nations involved. A similar effect would have occurred, had the South–North railroad along African’s eastern spine had been developed. If the great inter-basin water transfer project known as Transaqua, capable of transferring billions of cubic feet of water from the Congo River Basin to Lake Chad, while creating an economic corridor between the nations of the Great Lakes and the Lake Chad Basin, been built thirty years ago when it was first proposed, how much suffering and death could have been prevented. Finally, in December 2016, ChinaPower signed an agreement with Nigeria for a feasibility study on a portion of the long overdue Transaqua project.
A New Opportunity to End Famine and War
In this century, infrastructure projects are being built across the African continent for the first time, as an extension of China’s Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road policy, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative-BRI. China is collaborating with African nations to build railroads at a rate never seen before on the continent. Discussing the importance of railway development, the Chinese Minister of Commerce recently stated: “Africa is an important part of the One Belt rail initiative.” China’s five biggest foreign railroad projects are in Africa. Premier Li Keqiang announced China’s intention to help Africa connect all its capital cities by modern rail lines. What effect will this have on the economies of Africa? Nothing short of an economic revolution spurring unprecedented levels of trade and commerce!
As the expression says, China is putting its money where its mouth is, when the West has firmly rejected financing any significant investment in infrastructure for Africa. Between 2000 and 2014 China made $24.2 billion in loans to finance transportation projects in Africa, according to the China Africa Research Initiative-(CARI). China financed the recently completed Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Djibouti electrified train at $4 billon. China will provide $13 billion to finance construction of the Standard Gauge Railroad-(SGR) in Kenya. The first phase of a rail line for passengers and freight from Mbassa, the largest port in Africa to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and further north to the major market in Naivasha is to be completed by the end of this year. The Horn of Africa will be transformed as the SGR is extended to the capitals of Kenya’s five neighboring states; South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The longer term vision is for the Addis Ababa to Djibouti rail line and the SGR to become eastern part of the East-West railroad.
With Chinese financing and Chinese construction companies, Nigeria is building a standard rail gauge from Lagos to Kano for $7.5 billion with stops in Ibaden, llorin, Mina, and Kaduna. China has signed an agreement with Nigeria for $12 billion to construct a coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar. China has also financed the light rail system in Addis Ababa, and light rail lines in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, and its former capital and largest city, Lagos. China has already financed $22 billion in infrastructure projects in Nigeria, with another $23 billion on going, and $40 billion more are in the pipeline according to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when he spoke last month in Abuja. For Nigeria, a country filled with mega cities inhabited by its huge and expanding population, rail transportation is a game changer.
In addition to funding rail construction, Chinese companies are involved in other important infrastructure across the continent, including new ports, highways, and airports, reaping $50 billion a year on their investments reports CARI.
Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority stated bluntly: “We approached the U.S., and they didn’t have the vision. They are not thinking ahead 30 years. They only have a vision from the past as a continent of war and famine. The Chinese have vision.”
It should be emphasized that these rail projects along with other infrastructure projects being built and financed by China will generate hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs for Africa’s unemployed.
It is vital that the Chinese Silk Road take up the task of creating electrical power for Africa. A mere 100,000 megawatts of electrical power for the sub-Saharan population of almost one billion, is literally a death sentence for Africa. Without hundreds of thousands of additional megawatts of power, Africa’s future; its very existence is in jeopardy. While the West is infatuated with off grid, lower technologies like wind and solar; construction of hundreds of nuclear power plants, which offer the best and most reliable form of energy is the next challenge. If the expansion of nuclear power follows the rate of growth of rail development, then famine, abject poverty, and war will become a distant memory of the past. If the new Washington administration breaks from previous US policy, and decides to collaborate with China with its “win-win” approach for all nations to join the Silk Road, then the long overdue industrialization of Africa is eminently feasible.
Under the ideological cover of free-market policies, the IMF, through its structural adjustment programs (SAPs) of the 1980s, demanded removal of state involvement in the economy. Its diktats included eliminating subsidies, liberalizing financial institutions, privatizing 90% of state-run corporations, and shrinking the civil sector work force. The result was to further drive down fledgling economies, and to end even the limited investment in infrastructure. But the most evil intended effect of the SAPs, along with the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was to utterly destroy agricultural sectors and the capacity to feed the people of a nation through their own labor. (Even under the boot of direct colonialism, this was never accomplished.) As a result, since the mid-1980s, virtually all African nations have been dependent on food produced outside their borders for their very existence. The SAPs created greater dependency on the West through increased amounts of new debt, borrowed from banking consortia
Moyo reports that by the end of the 1980s, the debt of the “emerging-market” nations soared to $1 trillion, leading to yearly debt-service payments that were $15 billion in excess of the aid received, thus producing a “net outflow of resources.” Instead of identifying the SAPs as responsible for wrecking these poor nations, Moyo blames lack of “good governance” and the failure to fully implement IMF conditionalities. In other words, if only the patient had imbibed more poison, he would not have died.