Africa has a growing food security problem: why it can’t be fixed without proper data

Simon Roberts and Jason Bell at the Conversation: “The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown measures have had a huge negative impact on producers and consumers. Food production has been disrupted, and incomes have been lost. But a far more devastating welfare consequence of the pandemic could be reduced access to food.

A potential rise in food insecurity is a key policy point for many countries. The World Economic Forum has stated this pandemic is set to “radically exacerbate food insecurity in Africa”. This, and other supplier shocks, such as locust swarms in East Africa, have made many African economies more dependent on externally sourced food.

As the pandemic continues to spread, the continued functioning of regional and national food supply chains is vital to avoid a food security crisis in countries dependent on agriculture. This is true in terms of both nutrition and livelihoods. Many countries in Southern and East African economies are in this situation.

The integration of regional economies is one vehicle for alleviating pervasive food security issues. But regional integration can’t be achieved without the appropriate support for investment in production, infrastructure and capabilities.

And, crucially, there must be more accurate and timely information about food markets. Data on food prices are crucial for political and economic stability. Yet they are not easily accessible.

study by the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development highlights how poor and inconsistent pricing data severely affects the quality of any assessment of agricultural markets in the Southern and East African region….(More)”