Despite its planetary virulence, the Covid pandemic has, as everyone knows, a disturbing exception: Africa, mysteriously spared. A terrible health disaster did not happen.
However, after twenty-five years without a recession, the African continent has had to deal with the socio-economic devastation associated with the spread of this virus: of all regions of the world, it has suffered the most. . The economies of African countries have suffered greatly, nullifying all the achievements of the pre-Covid years. Tourism, which accounted for 10% of the continent’s income, has fallen sharply in most countries, especially in Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa…
Export of raw materials from Nigeria, Angola, DRC collapsed. Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya, in particular, have experienced a sharp drop in agricultural trade abroad due to disrupted supply chains. Financially constrained and over-indebted governments were unable to service their debts and urgently reborrowed. Zambia’s default was the first time the authorities had given up after failing to meet their obligations to creditors. The outflow of capital, which reached unprecedented levels in developing countries in record time, had a serious impact in Africa, with the exception of Central Africa, causing a drop in investment.
After three years of drought in Madagascar, famine worsened as seasonal jobs were cut, and in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Algeria, shortages of imported food items such as vegetable oil, cereals and sugar drove up prices, hitting the masses in limited quantity. purchasing power. Layoffs and job closures have pushed millions of workers below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day.
According to a survey published on the World Bank website, “In Nigeria, 79% of respondents reported a loss of income and 42% said they lost their job.” The same publication also provides an “optimistic” estimate of 13 million people at risk of poverty, with simultaneous school closures forcing students to drop out of school – for some forever.
Another crisis, rather quiet but really devastating, has emerged since the post-coronavirus economic recovery. In 2021, rising energy prices, especially gas, have affected global fertilizer production, which depends on this resource.
Cost explosion irresistible for farmers
If such a situation is faced by most countries of the world, then it is more acute in Africa, which, according to FAO, is already in the grip of a growing famine since 2019. Although it has the largest amount of undeveloped arable land on the planet, its agricultural production remains inadequate, exacerbated by low yields. Although it is abundant in the raw materials needed to produce fertilizers, it depends mainly on imports to improve its soils. In South Africa, for example, fertilizer accounts for 36% of production costs.
With the price of phosphate fertilizers rising by nearly 95%, urea by 78% and potash by 138%, the cost explosion is becoming unstoppable for farmers whose future crops will suffer. Thus, compromised regular agricultural campaigns double the risks to the food security of the continent.
Without respite, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has multiplied the global deficit, disrupting the supply chains and pricing systems that allow the market to function. Here again, Africa not only does not escape the consequences, but, in addition, the consequences from which it suffers are ten times stronger. An embargo on Russian oil and rising prices paradoxically deprive many African countries of fuel. Nigeria, which is still Africa’s leading black gold producer but lacks refining infrastructure, imports almost 90% of its fuel. The country was swept by an impressive hype for gasoline with endless queues.
Kenya, paralyzed by a gasoline shortage, eventually opted for gas station rationing; scenes of chaos were observed in several African capitals around dry gas stations. In Senegal, due to a shortage of kerosene caused by supply problems, the planes were completely stopped. And not much better when it comes to food in 2022, thousands of miles away from a war zone.
According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, 45 African countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, and according to the UN, 25 African countries imported more than 33% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia in 2020, with a rate of 100 % for Somalia and Benin or 75% for Sudan. Dependent on foreign countries for food and importing half of its wheat needs mainly from Ukraine, Tunisia is facing shortages in staples such as rice, semolina, sugar and flour. Egypt, which is currently on the brink of a food crisis, has less than four months of domestic consumption of wheat stocks, with 85% of its wheat imports coming from Ukraine, Russia and the Ivory Coast, to counter food inflation, announced price controls and subsidies for a list of consumer goods.
In addition to the health component, Africa as a whole is experiencing all the global shocks. All LEDs are bright red; the specter of the “triple crisis” debt-inflation-food that is in the air could bring states to the abyss and cause serious social unrest in regions destabilized by armed conflicts and political tensions. In a global context with uncertain outcomes, major dependencies relentlessly expose the vulnerability and structural weaknesses of an African continent that has been drastically weakened by its excessive exposure to international economic conditions.