Selfish World Trade Organization (WTO ) Geo-Politics Failing Africans Ability To Feed Themselves 

BY SAMUEL OBEDGIU    

Recently, the BBC put up a tweet that carried a story about how “a ship carrying Ukrainian grain had docked in the east African nation of Djibouti, which according to the BBC was the first grain shipment from Ukraine to Africa since the Russian invasion.” #Ukraine #Russia #WhisperEyeNews

Someone subsequently retweeted with a comment wondering “how a nation at war is able to feed African nations at peace, whose excuse for not progressing is the same war in the country that’s feeding them.”

The reasons why Africans cannot feed themselves are complex. But the biggest reasons are due to the geopolitics of free trade. Agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa has, in recent times, remained lower than in the rest of the world. (Vibeke Bjornlunda School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide)

Many academics attribute Africa’s low food production to factors inherent to Africa and its people, such as climate, soil quality, slavery, and disease. This isn’t true. 70% of the world’s arable land is in Africa. Secondly, the continent now has a youth bulge that can till these arable lands. But where is the problem? The problem lies in the geopolitics of reckless free trade economies of greed favored by advanced economies.

Sub-Saharan Africa had modest growth in agricultural production per capita from the early 1960s to the 1970s, and occasional short periods of growth in the mid-1970s and 1980s. However, the overall trend is one of decline, which contrasts with other developing regions. Consequently, food security has been an ongoing problem, with 30% of SSA’s population being food insecure (Pfister et al., 2011).

A case in point is Ghana’s tomato growing industry. After independence, Ghana put in place high import Customs duties to protect its farmers and specifically the infant tomato growing industry. However, Ghana and many African countries came under increasing pressure to remove these tariffs. 30 years later, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and American tomatoes have flooded the Ghanaian market, outcompeting local Ghanaian farmers who have been pushed out of business. As a result, there is no tomato processing industry in Ghana. The 40% import tariffs on imported agricultural produce were removed thanks to the geopolitics of trade rules

Industrial farming, subsidies, and wage dumping as a result of cheap African labor that has fled Africa to work on tomato-growing farms in Europe have resulted in surplus production. This has resulted in the surplus tomato production that has flooded the markets in Ghana, outcompeting local farmers. The locally produced tomatoes end up being more expensive than imported tomatoes

There is no incentive for Africans to do agricultural production despite the continent having the biggest arable land in the world because the Africans have been outcompeted by the flood of cheap agricultural produce coming from the rest of the world. This hypocritical “Free trade” tendencies promoted by the world trade organization will certainly never allow Africans to thrive on homegrown local produce.

This will continue to explain why Ukrainian grain will continue dumping cheaper grain on the continent. International world trade organization rules and the geopolitics just won’t allow Africans to be food independent.

A few years ago, Rwanda put a ban on old second-hand clothes from majorly the U.S. The U.S responded by kicking Rwanda out of AGOA. 

African agriculture is under increasing pressure from western agricultural products. In 2018 alone, the EU exported tomato products worth 23 million euros, milk powder worth 258 million euros, and meat worth 411 million euros to West Africa.

Many African poultry farmers are giving up. They just can’t compete with EU imported agricultural products. The EU heavily subsidizes its farmers to even do farming both in the EU and abroad. In the early 1990s, Ghana would produce 90% of its poultry needs. But right now they only produce 5% and most poultry products come from the EU.  Once, African countries attempt to put tariffs on EU poultry products to promote local agricultural self-sustenance, they will be punished just like Rwanda when it attempted to ban second-hand clothes.

If Africans aren’t careful, the African free continental trade area treaty will just worsen this. It will simply be an easy vehicle for the re-exportation of foreign agricultural produce between African countries without dealing with separate customs duties of individual states.

By 2050 the world population will be 9 billion people, which means that food production will have to grow by 70% to feed these people. In Africa alone, food production must double by 2050. However, if the current geopolitics of free trade stop Africans from feeding their own people, a time bomb awaits this continent. This will translate into lost job opportunities and increased frustration that will lead to more political instability.

If anything, the EU will continue to subsidize its farmers to till the arable land in Africa, since our governments aren’t doing the same for African farmers. The results will be catastrophic and countries like Ukraine will keep exporting grain to African counties with vast hectares of arable land because of selfish free trade geo-politics I favor of western counties. And the airplanes that keep taking Africans to the Middle East to do casual labor will have an increasing number of people to transport out of a continent that lacks opportunities.

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