The World Bank recently released a report showing that Africa would be able to feed itself if trade barriers were reduced.
From the report:
A new World Bank report says that Africa’s farmers can potentially grow enough food to feed the continent and avert future food crises if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.
According to the report―Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples Africa has enough fertile farm land, water, and favorable climates to feed itself, yet it is forced to import ever-larger amounts of food from outside the region to keep up with rising demands from families across the continent.
It’s good to see that the World Bank is arguing for fewer restrictions and self-reliance in Africa. There have been encouraging figures on African poverty recently, and a reduction in restrictions would only make progress in the region more impressive. The World Bank estimates that there were significant declines in poverty rate in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2005 and 2008:
For the first time since 1981, less than half of its population (47 percent) lived below $1.25 a day. The rate was 51 percent in 1981. The $1.25-a-day poverty rate in SSA has fallen 10 percentage points since 1999. 9 million fewer people living below $1.25 a day in 2008 than 2005.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done before Africa can reach its economic potential. Africa has fifty percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, yet only contributes to two percent of global trade. It would be great to see what Africa would be capable of without the restirctions the World Bank report is referring to.
Africa’s tragedy has never been its lack of resources but political mismanagement. Although the benefits of less regulation and the need for reform are apparent I won’t get my hopes up over the prospect of the African leaders managing to make much progress.