When the African Union's predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, was founded on May 25, 1963, the continent was emerging from a century of colonial dominance. On that date, some African states were still ruled by foreign nations. One, South Africa, was controlled by a minority who imposed rigid segregation and supression of its majority Black population.
Today, May 25, 2022, colonialism is in the past. But the present and future of Africa still does not bask in the sunshine, especially at dinnertime.
The World Vision group, which monitors food security across the globe, says almost 300-million Africans are undernourished.
It says bad state policies, climate change, local conflicts and the war in Ukraine are causing even greater hunger across the continent.
Chris Alsobrook, Director of the Center for Leadership Ethics in Africa at South Africa’s Fort Hare University, says when it comes to food security and nutrition, Africa’s a long way from being sovereign, even in countries that in the past were recognized “breadbaskets” of the continent.
And, he says, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and adverse weather patterns are making the situation even worse.
“This day is supposed to be celebrating independence and unity. What the war in Ukraine has exposed is that we’re not independent but dependent, and not unified but in conflict. Part of the illusions exposed over the last 30 years is that simply proclaiming political independence doesn’t make you independent.”
Alsobrook highlights some of Africa's serious sustenance problems. “For instance, 70-percent of Kenyans are food insecure; a 70-percent drop in crops with climate change problems," he told VOA, adding "80-percent of Egypt’s grain came from the Black Sea region before this war, and it’s caused a serious problem. In fact, because of food security problems up the Nile in Ethiopia, they’ve dammed up half the Nile recently. So, there’s increasingly dire prospects in Egypt for them to feed themselves and to remain in any sense independent.”
Alsobrook says even South Africa, the continent’s second-biggest maize producer after Nigeria, is “sleepwalking into problems.”
He explains that the country isn’t producing enough food, and is in “even bigger trouble” because of the war in eastern Europe… A quarter of its grain came from Ukraine, and it remains dependent on the rest of the world for half its required wheat.
It’s Alsobrook’s opinion that Africa’s hungry largely because its people want what he calls the “wrong foods.”
"We’ve become dangerously dependent on wheat and maize. We don’t eat enough vegetables," he said. "We have large tracts of land that are either sugar or canola oil. These things have gone through the roof; they’re massive staples."
Alsobrook stresses the need for crop and food diversity.
"We need to rely on more variety. We can grow more vegetables," he said. "We have the land and enough water and resources. We can feed ourselves, but it depends on less dependence on highly concentrated agribusiness and government, and more variety in our diets.”
The analyst casts doubts on the idea that governments can create and direct solutions to the problem.
“It’s often very incompetent. As soon as the state responds, it often involves tenders, and as soon as there’s tenders, the money just dries up," Alsobrook said. "It’s a mistake to believe you can just throw money at the problem. It’s about disciplined cooperation. I think it’s this problem of dependence, seeing the state as a solution, and not us, as the state.”