Pan-African Parliament moves to address food security in Africa - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Sunday, March 12, 2023

Pan-African Parliament moves to address food security in Africa

As part of her effort to promote collective self-reliance and economic recovery for the peoples of Africa, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) is set to address the issue of food security in the continent.

The engagement by the continental legislative body is expected to create a platform where all the stake holders will debate and discuss how to handle the African food security issues. Under the plan, PAP would send Missions to Russia, Ukraine, USA, UN, EU , EU Security Council,  Germany, France and the EU Security Council.

As we may know, one of the objectives of the Pan-African Parliament as stated in Article 3.6 of the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP Protocol) is to contribute to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance and economic recovery. PAP is also empowered to examine, discuss or express an opinion on any matter, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Assembly or other policy organs and make any recommendations it may deem fit.

In line with its mandate, the proposed Missions is expected exert maximum effort to stop the Ukraine – Russia conflict by playing mediation role among all conflicting parties and actors. PAP will also seek to dismantle the sanctions imposed on Africa food security and demand those that imposed sanctions to lift them as they are impacting negatively on Africa’s vital food supply chain. 

For us to appreciate the importance PAP’s engagement, we need to recognize the fact that Russia exports about 11% of the world's urea, and 48% of the ammonium nitrate. Russia and Ukraine together export 28% of fertilizers made from nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as potassium, according to Morgan Stanley. That was why disruptions of those supplies due to sanctions and war have sent fertilizer prices skyrocketing.

Additionally, Ukraine is one of the Top 5 exporters of grain, wheat, barley, corn, sunflower oil, and sunflower seed. Much of that grain has traditionally gone to northern Africa and Middle Eastern countries, where, for a number of those individual countries, it supplies perhaps 80% of what they have. Russia and Ukraine provide over 40% of Africa's wheat supply.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the International Community imposed economic sanctions on Russia and in response, Russia halted hundreds of exports. While fertilizer exports were not explicitly banned, Russia's Ministry of Industry and Trade recommended that its fertilizer manufacturers temporarily stop exports of their products amid shipping concerns.

Consequently, a combination of war-related sanctions and domestic Russian policies have limited fertilizer exports from Russia, resulting in shortages along the fertilizer supply chain and pushing the world and especially African countries, to the brink of food crisis.

It is in realization of this that a key component of PAP’s plan is for African leaders to step up and fight for the right of African people to stop the unilateral decisions on the fate and future of Africa without consulting Africans which was inherited from its former colonial powers. 

This bold and courageous move by the continental parliament is expected to halt the slide into food insecurity in Africa. As we know, Food shortages would result in increased unemployment and more daring attempts at migration through the deadly Mediterranean Sea by African youths.

According to the African Development Bank Group, agriculture is one of the most vital indicators of Africa’s economic strength and sustainability and contributes an average of 14% of sub-Saharan Africa’s Gross Domestic Product and an incredibly high employment capacity for about two-thirds of the working population particularly women and youth.

Regrettably, food security has recently worsened in much of the continent driven by protracted armed conflicts and the impacts of climate change which has led to droughts in some areas and crop-destroying floods in others.

Added to the already worse situation is the fact that Africa remains the most sanctioned continent in the world with nine (9) countries under sanctions. Among the countries under sanctions are: Central African Republic; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ethiopia; Libya; Mali; Somalia; Sudan; South Sudan; and Zimbabwe.

This implies that one in five African countries is under sanctions and this includes some of the poorest countries in the continent and indeed the world. Other jurisdictions such as the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand all have one form of sanctions or the other against some African countries.

The question then is, why single out African countries for sanctions when there are many other countries against which the United States, United Kingdom and European Union have not imposed sanctions, but which from available information, have much worse regimes and less press freedoms than Zimbabwe for example? Some of the countries that are consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights are not under sanctions by the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. It is time to end this double standard.

For example, concerned that the sanctions have been unfairly damaging to Zimbabwe’s economy and keeping its citizens poor, the Pan-African Parliament on 10 November 2022 (PAP.6/PLN/RES/04/NOV.22) passed a resolution calling for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean Government by the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union. This engagement will enable PAP to walk the talk.

As noted earlier, the fallout from the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in hikes in fertilizer, fuel and food prices. Fertilizer shortages will result in smaller harvest which prompted the World Food Program to estimate that cereal production could fall by 20% in West Africa. Already, about 21% of Africans are reported to be suffering from food insecurity and/or hunger. It is also noted that the impact of the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is therefore, a matter of concern that a continent with up to 60% of arable land in the world cannot feed her people and must rely on grain imports from outside the continent including war ravaged Ukraine.

The Pan-African Parliament should be encouraged to press on with this bold step to address the issue of delivering food security for Africa and follow through with the proposed steps to mitigate the effects of the Russia – Ukraine war on the continent. Moving to end the sanctions unfairly imposed on African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Central African Republic is a move that needs to be pursued with vigour.

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