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Preventing Africa’s next crisis: Acting now to ensure food security in the wake of COVID-19

While global food commodity prices dropped for a second month in a row as oil prices plummeted, in March 2020 we also started seeing early signs of what could become a continental food crisis.

The lockdowns introduced all over the world in response to COVID-19 have disrupted transport and labour supply, and impacted food distribution.  While the world is not about to run out of food, our ability to deliver this food to the right places, at the right time and at the right price, is about to be tested.

Stay at home orders across Africa also mean that millions are losing out on their income, threatening them with varying levels of food insecurity as staples become unaffordable or cannot be produced locally . The African Union estimates that 20 million people will lose their livelihoods because of the pandemic. And the World Food Programme has already recorded food insecurity spikes across various African regions.

Many governments have acted faster than during the 2008 and 2001 food crises on the continent to keep essential items, such as basic foodstuffs, affordable. Unfortunately, not all companies have headed the guidance. Several South African retailers, for instance, are in court today, accused of implementing unreasonable price hikes to exploit citizens’ desperation ahead of the country’s lockdown.

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Authored by Marie Wilke. The author is an Associate Director at Africa Practice. A trade lawyer by background, Marie served as a trade advisor at the SADC Secretariat before joining Africa Practice. www.africapractice.com

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