War in Ukraine: Perspectives and Key Responses for Food Security in Africa

On April 20, 2022, STRATEGIES! held the first in a series of talks on “The War in Ukraine and the Need for a Functional State in Africa”. Due to the importance of the impact of the Ukraine War on African agriculture, it was important to kick off the round of discussions with a focus on food security.

To frame the discussion, STRATEGIES! presented Africa Food and the War on Ukraine

Our resources persons

Following this framing, the discussion was kicked off by three resources persons from the African private sector.

Theo de Jager Executive Director, Southern African Agri Initiative and President of the World Farmers Organization
Worlali Senyo Head of Corporate Services, Farmerline Ltd Ghana
Bertrand Foffe Managing Director, Jangolo – Agritech Entrepreneur

Participation

About 100 people participated in the discussion across three different social media platforms coming from at least 10  African countries and representing farmers, agriculture technicians, policy makers and consumers.

Key ideas from the discussion

Hope and Dynamism 

Despite being in a food, energy and financing crisis, this is a moment for Africa to do radical thinking and revolutionize food. Panelists and participants all see this moment as a challenge that has created opportunity for quantum change in African agriculture.

Structural and Systemic Solutions

While it is urgent and necessary to respond to the needs of the 281.6 million people who are facing hunger on the continent with emergency and humanitarian aid, it is absolutely essential to define structural and systemic solutions that will build strong agricultural systems for Africa in the long term, while doing so. Some of these systemic solutions include:

  • Financing – Rethinking how Africa mobilizes financing for agriculture. Is it time for an African Agriculture Bank that connects private sector investment directly to farmers and agripreneurs? Can we use technology to capture financing that is largely in the informal sector?
  • Inputs – Building upon the current big and small initiatives to resolve the challenge of fertilizer supply. The Nigerian initiative of building a fertilizer production plant is interesting and should be looked at from at least a regional and perhaps a continental perspective. Governments need to link to this private sector initiative to their strategies. In Cameroon, Ghana and many other countries, there are successful small initiatives to produce and distribute organic fertilizer. This is the time to bring these initiatives to scale with financing and technical know-how.
  • Logistics – This was a major focus of the discussion. Getting food from production centers to urban markets remains one of Africa’s key challenges. As crisis response is rolled out, it will be important to address the structural challenge of transportation including road, rail and air transport. Logistics for managing post-harvest are also a challenge. Building warehouses, cold stores and other storage facilities is a priority.
  • Technology – The importance of data and technology in revolutionizing African agriculture is clear. Collecting data on the millions of actors in the value chain, using technology to provide market and climate information, connecting farmers and agripreneurs to financing are just some of the ways in which technology can enable Africa to leapfrog its agriculture development.
The Hidden Middle

Providing multi-faceted strategic support to actors throughout the agriculture value chain who are already producing, transforming and distributing, is key. Thousands of small agriculture businesses throughout Africa have a proven business model. They need linkages to research, financing and markets. The opportunity in this moment of crisis is to support and scale such businesses.

Women and Youth

Women and Youth are the majority in the agriculture value chain.  They are amongst those innovating and creating successful business models.  They remain amongst those who have the least access to resources and support. Women and Youth are also the majority among the most vulnerable populations. As crisis response is rolled out, it will be important to address the structural issues of access to land, training, financing and markets that are stopping these key groups from reaping the full benefits from their roles in agriculture value chains.

Accountability

In this moment when crisis response will mean that large amounts of funds will be managed by African States, the systems of accountability for these funds are urgent and of utmost importance. African citizens need accountability for the funds which are being spent in their name by both African States and donors. Putting into place citizen monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, conditioning funds to performance and other key elements of accountability must be addressed.

The Functional State

The presumption in all development strategies is that there is a functional state, capable of delivering the strategies designed. As a company, STRATEGIES! posits that this presumption belies the actual situation on the ground. In Africa, functional states that are present, ensure security and sustainability, then provide hope to the population are a minority. Analyzing the functionality of the State, integrating the strengthening of the state as a fundamental part of development strategies is an imperative for implementing solutions that resolve the decades-old structural problems in agriculture and other key areas of development.

Some provocative questions closed this discussion and are lead the way Talk 2.

Next conversation…

Can we imagine:

  • An African Union where voting and participation rights are conditioned by performance on key indicators such as access to water, kilometers of road built or reduction of the food import bill?
  • IMF and World Bank loans conditioned on performance and accountability and integrating strengthening the functionality of the state as an essential component of these loans?
  • Systematic analysis of the Functionality of the State at the start of all development programs?

The conversation has started.

Let us continue together on May 4, 2022 during Talk 2 – The War in Ukraine: Political and Security Perspectives and Responses for Africa.

Talk to you soon!