Africa Day 2022 and the continent’s food crisis.
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
Commemorating the day, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson, acknowledged that Africa’s food security crisis had worsened because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Shrinking world supply of agricultural products
“On this day of celebration of Africa Day (25 May 2022), I am very pleased to express my wishes of health and prosperity to each and every one of you,” said the AU Chairperson, Mahamat. He added, “More recently, Africa has become the collateral victim of a distant conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine. By profoundly upsetting the fragile global geopolitical and geostrategic balance, it has also cast a harsh light on the structural fragility of our economies. The most emblematic sign of these fragilities is the food crisis following the climatic disorders, the health crisis of COVID-19, amplified today by the conflict in Ukraine. This crisis is characterised by a shrinking world supply of agricultural products and a soaring inflation of food prices,” he said.
Africa’s soaring food prices
According to Human Rights Watch, before the war in Ukraine, countries in East, West, Middle, and Southern Africa, including Angola, Cameroon, Kenya, and Nigeria, were already grappling with soaring food prices due to extreme climate and weather events such as floods, landslides, and droughts, and the Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted production efforts and global supply chains. Since Russia’s invasion, global food prices have since reached new heights. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Food Price Index, a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, increased 12.6 per cent from February to March.
Learning from Africa’s Covid-19 response
The African Union is confident that African countries can ride out the crisis by working together. “So, what to do in the face of all these challenges?” asks the AU Chairperson before calling on African countries to marshall the same resilience demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Determination and solidarity were clearly demonstrated in the face of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The strong mobilisation of African leaders and the effective coordination provided by the African Union in the Continental Response are testimony to the ability of Africa to face the challenges in a united and resolute manner,” urged Mahamat.
We are on the right path
High food prices disproportionately affect impoverished members of society. They spend more of their income on food, even when buying the least expensive foods. The AU wants African nations to quickly pool resources together. “The results have not always matched our ambitions. But we are on the right path. From the focussed pooling of all our energies and geographically dispersed resources will emerge a new Africa, 'the Africa we want,'” said the AU Chairperson.
Mahamat was nevertheless quick to point out that African countries needed to urgently deal with issues that hamper effective cooperation. “There is only one condition: to identify and point out, without complacency, the evils that plague our actions and hinder the effective implementation of our Decisions, Treaties, Conventions and Strategies in order to provide them with the appropriate treatment,” he said.
UN lauds Africa’s accomplishments
Maldivian politician and diplomat Abdulla Shahid, the current President of the Seventy-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, issued a solidarity message on Wednesday, 25 May.
“I am delighted to join this Africa Day celebration. On this day, in 1963, the Organisation of African Unity – now known as the African Union (AU) – was established. As we commemorate this day, we reflect on the accomplishments of people across the African continent and on the challenges they still endure. This year’s theme focused on the importance of addressing malnutrition and food insecurity, is important. Across the continent, Africa faces stark development challenges, including food insecurity and increasing malnutrition. These are amplified by global crises that include Covid-19 and climate change. And they interconnect with ongoing difficulties caused by such issues as changing weather patterns, drought, poor sanitation, and crop-destroying insects – all of which have strong local consequences,” said the UN senior official.
The continent celebrates cultural diversity
Apart from the annual AU driven theme, 25 May, - Africa Day on the continent and for those in the diaspora, is marked as a time to celebrate and highlight the diverse vibrancy of cultures, dress, foods and traditions of the people of Africa.