Former Nigeria’s president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and ex-Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Desalegn Boshe, have warned that COVID-19 response should be focused on food security, agribusiness, and rural development.
They warned that the continent could be the worst hit from the economic fallout of COVID-19.
They estimated that 80 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty with the disruptions caused by COVID-19 on the food system.
The ex-African nations’ leaders gave the warning in a publication on the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s website on Thursday.
In the publication, which they co-authored, African countries were also cautioned against neglecting the rural poor.
It said, “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: 80 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty if action is not taken. And disruptions in food systems 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.”
The publication also x-rayed the importance of agriculture on the African economy, adding that efforts must be made to prevent food shortage.
It added, “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. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, the role of small-scale farms is even more significant: 80 per cent of farms are small in most of these countries.”
Data from the World Health Organisation showed that there are over 72,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent.
A breakdown of the data showed that the African continent has recorded more than 25,000 recoveries and 2,400 deaths as of 10.30 am on Thursday.