Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Desalegn Boshe, have warned that 80 million Africans risk extreme poverty if the COVID-19 response is not focused on food security, agribusiness and rural development.
They warned that the continent could be the worst hit from the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic as a result of the disruptions caused by it on the food ecosystem.
The two former leaders’ warning was contained in a publication posted on the website of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, seen by THISDAY yesterday.
They co-authored the publication, warning African countries against neglecting the rural poor.
“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: Eighty million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty if action is not taken. And disruptions in the food system 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 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,” they said.
The duo analysed the importance of agriculture on the African economy, saying that efforts must be made to prevent food shortage.
“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.
“African governments have defined stimulus measures to mitigate national and regional economic impacts of COVID-19. As they do, they must remember that investments in agriculture can be up to five times more poverty-reducing than investments in other sectors.
“Small farms everywhere traditionally make a huge contribution to global food security. Around the world, small-farm dominated systems produce 50 per cent of all food calories on 30 per cent of the world’s agricultural land,” they added.