Meeting the Challenge of Higher Food and Fuel Prices in Africa-Dialogue between Ministers and Donors Charts Way Forward
ACCRA, September 5, 2008 – At a landmark dialogue held in Ghana yesterday, over 40 African Ministers met with heads of donor agencies to discuss the crises caused by soaring food and fuel prices, and urged the international donor community to "untie aid and remove restrictions on food aid so that the adverse impacts of the crisis on people and national economies can be reduced."
The meeting came at the invitation of the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) and was held on the margins of the Accra Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. It was co-chaired by AfDB President Donald Kaberuka and World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
In opening remarks, the co-chairs noted that "food prices will continue to remain at high levels into the foreseeable future," and stressed "the urgent need to keep up the momentum in responding to the crises." They said the crises present an opportunity to increase effectiveness in service delivery, and for managing risks throughout the food production value chain. They pointed to the need to address "export and trade bans that have a negative impact on food security and regional markets," and urged the international donor community to support the European Commission initiative to increase funding by one billion euros for the crises.
The event, structured as a dialogue, led to a fruitful and constructive exchange of ideas. Some of the major points made by African Ministers included:
- Food and fuel price crises pose a serious risk to political and regional stability across Africa, and the peace process in fragile and post-conflict countries. Existing problems will be exacerbated by climate change;
- Safety nets are an important response measure and school-feeding programs should continue to be supported, especially to mitigate the negative impacts on vulnerable groups, including women and children;
- Practice of increasing agriculture subsidies and reducing duties and taxes to control food and oil prices is causing stresses to macro-economic reforms and fiscal stability, and these need to be addressed;
- Support to smallholder farmers must strengthen the entire food production value chain. Increased focus is needed on agricultural research, but also on traditional crops, as changes in dietary practices can exacerbate the food crisis situation;
- Investments in agriculture- and food-related infrastructure must continue, with a specific focus on irrigation, rural roads, and reducing post-harvest losses through better marketing and storage facilities;
- No country is insulated from the crises: middle income countries are also affected, and their engagement is necessary for developing appropriate responses to the challenges posed by rising food-fuel prices, and
- Donors should agree on a clear division of labor and ways in which support for agricultural development in Africa can be increased; the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) is an excellent roadmap, and donors should continue to support this African-led process.
The dialogue was held in the margins of the ongoing Third High Level Forum (HLF) on Aid Effectiveness, a three-day global conference on improving the quality and impact of development assistance which opened in Accra on Tuesday. Soaring prices for food staples such as rice, maize, and wheat have been compounded by rising prices at the gas pumps, leading to an increasing number of requests for emergency food aid in many countries around the world, including across Sub-Saharan Africa. According to recent World Bank estimates, the food-fuel crises are pushing 100 million people deeper into poverty, reversing hard-won development gains achieved over the last decade.