Scaling-up job opportunities in food systems for youth and women in West Africa

By Koffi Zougbédé, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC)

In 2011, Fatoumata Cissoko, a graduate in accounting and a young woman living in Guinea, launched her dried-fruit processing company with USD 260. Her company produces about 16 tonnes of dried pineapple a year sold in many shops and supermarkets in the capital, Conakry, and other cities around the country. Recently, her company increased its production capacity substantially to improve its competitiveness in regional and international markets. Fatoumata also opened an organic restaurant to complete the production chain and she directly employs 15 women. The story of Fatoumata is one example of the many emerging job opportunities in West Africa’s food systems.

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COVID-19: A threat to food security in Africa

 By Paul Akiwumi, Director, UNCTAD Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Africa-covid-19The International Monetary Fund has projected a deep coronavirus-induced global recession, which threatens a nearly 4% drop in world GDP and could drag the GDP of African economies into a fall of about 1.4%, with smaller economies facing a contraction of up to 7.8%. This decline is mainly a result of export adjustments affecting primary commodity exporters and associated tax revenue losses. This in turn, reduces governments’ capacity to extend the public services needed to respond effectively to the crisis. Overall, UNCTAD estimates a regional average of about 5% in public revenue losses in Africa. Total merchandise exports are expected to contract by about 17% in 2020. These losses will have repercussions on Africa’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063. With at least 60% of the African population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods and access to food, any trade-related distortions to the sector can threaten the food security of the continent’s poor. In addition to the impact of extreme climate shocks on agricultural productivity, there is a strong positive correlation between economic recession and food insecurity in Africa. Despite the continent’s huge resource endowments (including a wide availability of arable land, and a young, growing labour force, among other factors), the continent’s agricultural production alone, hampered by distribution, access, and affordability challenges, is insufficient to meet its food security needs. Continue reading

Nigeria’s border closure: Why it will not pay off

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By Léopold Ghins and Philipp Heinrigs, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa


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Men offload rice at Bodija market, Ibadan, Nigeria. Flickr/IITA

It has been three months since Nigeria closed its land borders and to date there are few indications as to when they will open again. The country said it wants to reduce the smuggling of goods and stop illegal inflows of Asian rice and outflows of subsidised fuel. More fundamentally, Nigerian authorities justify the closure by the need to support the domestic agricultural sector and accelerate national productivity growth.

The closure is badly affecting livelihoods in local border economies. In Benin, communities in areas close to the Seme border near the sea, or further up north near the Owode border, largely depend on Nigerian markets for their sustenance. The sudden shutdown has caused thousands of smallholder farmers to lose their produce and default on credits. In the Dendi region (an area that spans across northern Benin, Niger and Nigeria), economic networks are strongly integrated across borders. Small traders that live on these networks have lost their principal sources of income. Continue reading

Disentangling urban and rural food security issues in West Africa

By Richard Clarke, Consultant, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

The rapid growth of cities in West Africa poses significant challenges across development dimensions. In particular, as the location of poverty spreads from rural to urban areas so have issues of food insecurity and malnutrition. Indeed, the potential impact of growing food insecurity in urban areas was highlighted by the widespread rioting over food prices in 2008.

The West African region is set to experience a further doubling of its urban population over the next 20 years, having grown from 6 million to 170 million between 1950 and 2015. This growth will place greater demands on regional food systems, which themselves are increasingly exposed to adverse global climatic and economic conditions, to provide cities with their nutritional needs.   Continue reading

Are we ready to prevent the next food price crisis?

By Denis Drechsler, Project Manager, Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

food-crisisWhen prices of staple food crops soared in international markets in 2007-10, it was a wakeup call for many world leaders to take action. In view of millions of families being pushed into hunger, the G20 decided to create the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to combat excessive volatility by enhancing transparency and policy co-ordination in international food markets.

Since its launch in 2011, AMIS has provided more reliable and timely assessments of global food supplies by working closely with the main trading countries of staple food crops. This has created a more level playing field for all market actors to make informed decisions. Even more important have been achievements in the area of policy dialogue. When maize prices spiked in 2012, for example, regular exchanges among the key producing countries helped avoid a repeat of hasty policy action, such as export bans that had exacerbated market turbulences in the past. Through AMIS, it seems, the world is better prepared to minimise the risk of future food price crises.

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Six key challenges to improving nutrition through social protection in the Sahel and West Africa

By Jennifer Sheahan, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 

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The Sahel and West Africa region is home to some of the most nutritionally insecure people in the world. In 2015, 19 to 21 million children in the region under the age of five were affected by stunting. This figure is growing and may exceed 22 million by 2025. Today, strong evidence exists linking social protection to improved nutrition. In December 2016, the 32nd Annual RPCA Meeting focused political attention on some of the key challenges to be overcome in this area.

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West Africa’s diet transformation: Will the region capitalise on its changing food demand?

By John Staatz, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, and Frank Hollinger, Economist at the Investment Centre Division (TCIA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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Demand for food in West Africa is changing dramatically, opening great opportunities to create new wealth and jobs. But will most of the wealth and jobs be created in West Africa or in the countries that export food to the region? The decisions made over the next few years by West Africans and their development partners will largely determine who benefits from this massive opportunity and its attendant challenges.

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Burkina Faso: Resilience building is underway

By Julia Wanjiru, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

sahel-week-banner-blog-development-mattersBurkina Faso is a poor, land-locked West African country, with about 18.5 million people, a number that is increasing fast at 3.1% per year. Categorised as a Least Developed Country (LDC), Burkina Faso regularly ranks at the bottom end of the Human Development Index (183 in 2015). Poverty is mostly rural (50.7% rural poor compared with 19.9% urban poor). Food insecurity and malnutrition remain a chronic concern (Global Acute Malnutrition = 8.6%).

acute-malnutrition-rural-areas-burkina-fasoDespite the large number of people living in poverty and the fact that the people of Burkina Faso are among the most vulnerable in the world, they also are very resilient. Continue reading

Towards a Better Understanding of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR)

By Jennifer Sheahan, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

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sahel-week-banner-blog-development-mattersThe time could not be more opportune to promote a better understanding of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR) than now, during the 2016 Sahel and West Africa Week taking place from 12-16 December in Abuja, Nigeria. This is the single most important gathering of stakeholders to discuss food and nutrition security in the region. The week provides a fitting backdrop to review and discuss resilience action.

Between October and December 2016, 10.4 million people were identified as requiring food and nutrition assistance in the Sahel and West Africa. This situation is due to a combination of multiple, interconnected factors, including a lack of food availability, limited access to food and basic social services, and the effects of health and security issues. Over a number of decades, a proliferation of initiatives, projects and programmes of a development and humanitarian nature have emerged in the region to address food and nutrition insecurity. These initiatives, often implemented in an isolated, unco-ordinated manner, outside of any overarching framework, have led to a duplication of efforts, a less than optimal use of resources and a source of competition between organisations. Continue reading

Empowering women is key to improving food security and resilience in West Africa

By Richard Clarke, Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) Secretariat

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Fish processing facility in Togo

Food insecurity remains unacceptably high in West Africa. According to the Food Crisis Prevention Network, nearly 9.5 million people in the region required food assistance as well as measures to protect their livelihoods and combat malnutrition between June and August 2016, despite significant improvements since the 1990s. FAO data also shows that changing trends have seen women representing approximately 50% of the agricultural labour force on the African continent, while IFAD estimates that women contribute 89% of agricultural employment in Sahelian countries. Thus, women’s contributions to food systems across West Africa have both widespread implications and prospects for food security and resilience in the region, a subject upon which Donatella Gnisci has written a paper for the OECD/SWAC West African Papers Series.   Continue reading