Africa - Mediterranean - Europe: for shared and sustainable food sovereignty and security
Article published on the FARM Foundation blog, on 6th February 2017.
In a recent article , Aboubacar Yacouba Barma wondered: “Will 2017 see the development of African agriculture?” He observes that “reports and commitments from countries and international partners are [always] the same. They keep bringing up the same observations and often reach the same conclusions, especially in terms of recommendations, which seem easily feasible at first sight”. What if a change of paradigm was necessary? In spite of the numerous international meetings held since the economic crisis of 2007/2008, we can observe in Africa, but also in the Mediterranean and in Europe, a qualitative and quantitative rise of nutrition and food insecurity. It is therefore necessary to offer credible and efficient solutions to the polysemous crisis of food systems and to build, within the geopolitical framework of La Verticale “Africa — Mediterranean – Europe” (AME), a real agricultural and agri-business partnership.
Four reasons call for a “food sovereignty and security” programme between African, Mediterranean and European countries
- Public health: in Africa and the Middle East, at least 500 million people are in a situation of food deficit and 400 are in a situation of excess, that is nearly 70% of the total population. This population carries the triple burden of hunger, diseases such as obesity, cardio-vascular diseases, type-2 diabetes and food-born infectious diseases. This situation lead to very high mortality rates and costs;
- Social: the population of the great region “Africa - Mediterranean - Europe” will grow from 1.9 billion inhabitants in 2015 to 3.3 billion in 2050. The African population will more than double, while the Middle Eastern population will increase by 58% and the EU-28’s will decrease by 1%. Hundreds of millions of jobs will have to be created in the South to absorb this demographic shock. Yet, in 2050, 1/3 of the AME population will live in rural spaces; hence the necessity to act in favour of a sustainable and inclusive development in rural areas in order to avoid massive disruptive migrations in the North and in the South alike;
- Economic: in Africa and in the Mediterranean, the heavy production deficit in relation to the needs requires to import USD 180 billion of agricultural and food products, that is 4 times more than in 2000. Besides, these importations, which depend on volatile markets, destroy local crop and livestock farming. We can observe a complementarity between the North (EU), which is a net exporter of foodstuffs, and the South (Africa and the Middle East), which has a heavy deficit. Besides, the market shares of the EU in “La Verticale” keep decreasing for the benefit of Americas, the Balkans and Asia, according to the products and promising perspectives could help develop South-South commercial flows. These complementarities must not be the object of a purely mercantile approach but rather of a co-development approach;
- Technical and environmental: the food production method is also an issue, be it specialised, intensive, centralised and financialized as in the agro-industrial model, or fragmented, with a low productivity and a weak organisation of agri-food industries, leading to poverty, as in the traditional model. In both cases, it generates worrying environmental and social negative externalities and it is incapable of tackling the challenge of climate change. The “green revolution” solution of the 1960’s, which keeps inspiring numerous national and intergovernmental agricultural policies, has shown its limits.
In order to tackle these numerous challenges and ensure food security in AME countries, a transition towards more sustainable and responsible systems is necessary.
It should rely on 2 levers:
- Reconquering internal markets through a better managed food sovereignty, via technological and organisational innovations as well as ambitious training programmes for industrial and territorial actors;
- North-South and South-North solidarity as well as a South-South interfacing, via the co-development of local production through the construction of sustainable agri-business value chains and the securing of supplies.
In the short and medium terms, projects showing the benefits of “shared and sustainable food sovereignty and security” could be implemented. Operational programmes will support this project in 3 fields:
- “Food information and education of consumers”, to revive and promote local food, ensure food and nutrition security, and train producers and service providers to new farming, agri-business and logistics technologies;
- “10 pilot projects of territorialised circular bioeconomy” in each country, following the example of the “Songhaï Leadership Academy” and the 13 similar centres in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These projects would be based on territorial development alternative solutions with positive social, environmental and economic externalities;
- “Three-way solidarity supply” based on an observatory of agri-business markets and industries, the creation of an AME label and the implementation of multilateral commercial contracts over several years that could guarantee, for strategic food products, volume and price ranges to their partners. These agreements would cover North-South, South-North and South-South products and flows.
This approach would require a geopolitical framework agreement on food security through sovereignty and solidarity within this “Vertical”. Could the next Europe-Africa Summit be a first step to carry this vision? In a column of June 2016, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, President of the African Union Commission, observed that: “commercial exchanges and investments between Africa and the EU could be improved through a closer cooperation, a political coordination and the conclusion of WTO negotiations” and that they were working together to “develop agriculture in order to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth” . Let’s see what the future brings...
 « Agriculture et sécurité alimentaire : le grand défi de l'Afrique » [Agriculture and food security: Africa’s great challenge], La Tribune, 31-12-2016
 In this regard, let us recall the Declaration of the Bamako Africa-France Summit: “given the importance of goods and agricultural products self-sufficiency, as well as the effects of climate change on crops, Heads of States and Governments decided to collaborate by making technology transfers to improve crops, add value to fresh produce and improve storage, transport and distribution systems. [...] The farming sector is a priority for Africa. Not only because of its importance for food security on the continent, but also for its social and economic development. In this context, the AAA initiative (Adaptation of African Agriculture) aims at a transition towards an agriculture that can adapt to climate change.”
 This article includes the elements presented in a collective work: Rastoin J.-L. et al, 2016, « Pour une sécurité et une souveraineté alimentaires durables et partagées » [For shared and sustainable food security and sovereignty], published on 13th January 2017, in the collection Les Palimpsestes de l’IPEMED. This publication is available for free on IPEMED website.
 « Union européenne-Afrique : un avenir commun » |European Union-Africa: a common future], Jean-Claude Juncker, Le Figaro, 06-04-2016