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How food insecurity fuels migration


Khaled Sherif is the Vice-President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery at the African Development Bank.

In this interview, he shares his view on how food security could be a tool to address migration. He spoke ahead of World Food Day, October 16, which has as its theme, “Change the future of migration, Invest in food security and rural development.”

On food security and migration

Food security and rural development are closely interlinked with issues of migration, fragility and resilience. The Horn of Africa and the Sahel provide compelling examples of how global factors such as food insecurity, radical extremism and migration reinforce state fragility and have devastating effects on development. The Bank has, where appropriate, adopted risk-based approaches at both country and regional levels in addressing fragility.

Lack of economic opportunities, infrastructure, employment opportunities and unpredictable climactic changes in these countries are key sources of fragility that often result in forced migration of peoples desperately seeking alternatives. AfDB Group President Akinwumi Adesina refers to the mutual reinforcement between extreme rural poverty, high rates of unemployment among youth and climactic or environmental degradation as a “triangle of disaster”. These factors create conditions that drive conflict and extreme violence – which in themselves fan economic or forced migrations as reflected in rural-urban, intra-African or international migrations, leading to significant local and international challenges.

The magnitude of the challenges arising from fragility is aptly illustrated by the stark statistics on access to basic services and food insecurity. Half of the world’s fragile states are in Africa where approximately one in four persons is afflicted with challenges concerning stability, safety and opportunity. More than 645 million Africans do not have electricity, 319 million people are without access to improved and reliable drinking water sources, and 695 million of a global 2.4 billion people without access to improved sanitation facilities live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, 233 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa suffered from hunger or were undernourished between 2014 and 2016.

What the AfDB is doing to tackle fragility in African countries

The African Development Bank is investing in Africa’s transformation – linking rural and urban economies by investing US $24 billion, over the next 10 years, through its High 5 agenda (Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa) in efforts to prioritize economic security, food security and climate security to ultimately improve the quality of lives of African people.

The limited capacity in mobilizing domestic resources in countries in fragile situations results in their heavy reliance on donor resources for investing in infrastructure and building the capacity of their institutions. Through the Technical Support Facility (TSF), the African Development Bank has been able to rehabilitate water and energy infrastructure in Zimbabwe and South Sudan; respond to health emergencies to fight Ebola; prevent a fiscal crisis in Chad that emanated from the activities of Boko Haram and a drop in oil prices; respond to drought and famine in East and Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa; build the capacity of the revenue authorities in Sierra Leone; provide water to communities in Somalia and improve access to water and sanitation in South Sudan, among others. These targeted responses are reversing decades in infrastructure decay, building the capacity of public institutions to provide public services and better manage available resources through improved public financial management systems.

Critical to this, is not neglecting the delivery of the High 5s in vulnerable communities in most transitional states on the continent. The 10,000 Communities in 1,000 Days initiative has been developed to provide a platform for delivering the High 5s in countries facing fragility. It aims at implementing quick yet impactful interventions to address fragility and build resilience. The initiative brings the governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations, local community organizations and traditional development actors to work together in partnership using development solutions that have a proven record to meet the needs of people at the bottom of the pyramid and at risk of being left out in the development process.

The initiative will target vulnerable communities in transition states that do not have access to basic services such as energy, clean water, and who suffer from food insecurity, unemployment, or other critical issues. The Bank acknowledges that the demands of vulnerable communities are far greater than what it is able to provide on its own and therefore seeks to leverage more resources through partnerships to implement the High 5s at the grassroots level.

Acknowledging that youths constitute the majority of African migrants, the Bank has also been implementing the Jobs for Youth in Africa Initiative. The aim of this initiative is to expand economic opportunities for both male and female African youth, which leads to improvements in other aspects of their lives. Using the targeted support Pillar III of the TSF, US $6.71 million are financing pilot youth entrepreneurship projects in Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone that could be scaled up under this initiative.

The Bank's greatest achievements in the last two years in terms of building resilience, addressing fragility, stemming migration and ensuring food security in Africa

The past few years have witnessed some of the worst years on record across Africa in terms of climate change, resulting in droughts that have decimated lives and livelihoods with some 20 million people at risk of severe malnutrition. The African Development Bank has recognized the urgent need to enhance resilience across the continent and has been committed to addressing fragility, stemming migration and ensuring food security in Africa.

The Bank’s “Say No to Famine” initiative will deploy US $1.1 billion to address the immediate, medium- and long-term resilience building in affected countries to address immediate needs for food secretly, water and sanitation and overall resilience in agricultural systems. The long term solution is to boost food production and food security through better infrastructure, policies and markets.

Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) is another initiative that will support the Feed Africa Strategy of the Bank and support the Feed Africa High 5 agenda. TAAT is a knowledge- and innovation-based response to the recognized need for scaling up proven technologies across Africa to boost productivity, and to make Africa self-sufficient in key commodities. TAAT will contribute to Africa’s key agricultural development objectives: 1) eliminating extreme poverty, 2) ending hunger and malnutrition, 3) achieving food self-sufficiency and turning Africa into a net food exporter, and 4) putting Africa on top of global agricultural value chains.

On project impact stories

Through Pillar III resources, the Bank assisted Sierra Leone in enhancing institutional capacity with regard to minerals taxation and non-tax revenue harmonization and collection and improving governance in the extractive industries. The main outcomes of the project were reduced smuggling of minerals to other Mano River Union countries, a Natural Resources Charter, improved governance and revenue mobilization.

Through the Private Sector Credit Enhancement Facility (PSF) about US $113 million has been invested in fragile situations – an energy project in Sierra Leone that will increase by 50% the country’s power generation; and the construction and operation of a new transshipment container terminal in Togo that is expected to create 670 new permanent jobs.

Between 2011 and 2012, the Bank invested in six funds in Côte d’Ivoire that supported recovery of the economy and ensured continued provision of electricity by the electricity and water companies, CIE and SODECI, respectively.

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