African leaders said they would try to alleviate cyclic food insecurity on the continent back in 2003. It’s time they got on with it, and they can use Western money to do so, writes DW’s George Okach.
Straight from the end of the Sharm el-Sheikh COP27 climate talks, African leaders must rush back to the drawing board.
Now, more than ever, the continent needs to figure out how millions of people exposed to the devastating effects of climate change can be helped.
The truth of the matter is that financing from richer nations to help mitigate effects of global warming is no longer a dependable source.
Hunger toll set to soar
Drought-driven famine is predicted to hit “code red” level in the Horn of Africa.
As a result, millions of vulnerable Africans are bracing for extreme hunger in the coming months, the UN has warned.
This devastating outlook cannot wait for the endless climate change talks.
Africa must accept that it is on its own and take rapid steps to help its population facing cyclic hunger.
Climate of mistrust widened
The climate talks, although crucial, have only resulted in a widening gap of mistrust between the Global South and North.
It comes even as millions of Africans continue to burn out, on a daily basis, under the extreme heat that has been exacerbated by fossil fuel extraction and use, primarily by richer nations, which are the main polluters.
Those who suffer will not patiently wait for an ambitious climate action to be arrived at through rhetoric.
The time to act is now, and African leaders cannot claim to have run out of ideas to save the suffering masses.
In fact, there is a game-changing idea that leaders have been backtracking upon for 20 years now.
Scale up expenditure on agriculture
In 2003, African governments made an ambitious commitment to spend 10% of their annual national budget on the development of the food and agriculture sector.
This monumental undertaking was known as the Maputo declaration. Its intentions were ambitious, achievable and meaningful.
The idea was to alleviate cyclic food insecurity for the continent’s most vulnerable people by 2030.
To date, several African countries are struggling to implement this noble idea. Most countries still have their annual allocation to agriculture at a paltry 4%, among them Kenya, Uganda, Senegal.
The horror of climate change reminds the continent that the implementation of Maputo declaration is needed now than never before.
And with the rich polluters’ cash stuck in their pockets, Africa should eye agriculture as the socio-economic game changer.
Agriculture, Africa’s sleeping giant
The central role of the agricultural sector to the continent cannot be emphasized enough. It’s the lifeline of millions in terms of jobs and sustenance.
Currently, even with numerous constraints and stifled resource allocation, the sector is still a promising dependable source of income.
Most leaders have reiterated their government’s commitment to revamp the sector but all these have turned out to be mere rhetoric.
Why then the neglect?
Some economists argue that the continent’s current fiscal context makes it unrealistic for agriculture to make up 10% of the total budget.
This is because the bulk of most African administrations have a huge debt burden that is eating up their budgets.
Some nations have also prioritized other key sectors, like security, tourism, infrastructure and education.
But in the light of the tough times ahead, which are partly caused by climate change, is it too much to ask that reallocation of expenditure be directed to agriculture?
Higher spending per capita is associated with improved agricultural performance and is therefore a risk worth taking.
If all is done in the right way, the agricultural sector can be a great revenue generator to even fund other sectors.
Further, global warming has made it even more necessary to boost research in that area, which will also have to be financed accordingly.
The continent needs to develop and use tolerant crop varieties, proper pest control arsenals and top-notch technologies.
This transformation drive can be pursued in conjunction with climate justice talks. And the results are bound to be a win-win situation for the whole continent.
Edited by: Nicole Goebel