[Column] Pedro Guerreiro: Can Africa overcome these three threats to its security and stability?
Our continent is hurtling towards an uncertain future that is being shaped by the forces of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
It’s too early to tell how exactly the confluence of rapid change and exponential technological advances will play out. But this much is clear: change will be constant and widespread. The uncertainty this creates has the potential to lead to insecurity.
For our fast-growing and rapidly developing continent, this insecurity could have far-reaching implications.
Africa is expected to contribute 54% of global population growth by 2050; by 2100, this figure could have increased to 82%, or 3.2 billion of the overall increase of 3.8 billion people. That many developed countries are seeing a decline in their populations – both current and projected – only highlights the unique nature of the challenge facing our continent.
This level of growth will also put immense pressure on the continent’s natural resources. Africa is a resource-rich continent, but a prevailing lack of infrastructure means the utilisation of our natural resources is not always optimal.
Water management, food security, nutrition and infrastructure development will need revolutionary approaches if stability and security are to be maintained.
In fact, security – in its various forms, from physical security to water and food security to cybersecurity – is likely to be one of the defining challenges in 21st century Africa.
I see three types of security that will be most instrumental in our collective ability to make Africa’s growth story one of prosperity and inclusive development, namely: food security, water security, and cybersecurity.
Finding food in fertile lands
Despite the immense progress made in combating hunger at a global level, recent evidence suggests that there has been a reversal. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) found that the number of undernourished people worldwide increased from 804-million to 821-million last year.
Of the nearly one billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, 230-million were undernourished in 2018 – an increase of 25 million since 2014. A third of all people in the region face severe food insecurity, lack the resources to grow or buy sustenance, and regularly go a day or more without eating.
This is a dire situation if you consider that 60% of all uncultivated arable land is found in Africa, and that the agriculture sector accounts for 60% of all jobs on the continent.
At play is a combination of climate instability – especially unreliable rain patterns and volatile temperatures – and a lack of technology and other resources that could increase crop productivity.
Africa relies on some 250 million smallholder farmers for the production of 80% of the food consumed on the continent. These farmers mostly lack access to information, best agricultural practices, farming inputs such as fertilisers and seeds, automation, and market opportunities.
By some estimates, we will need to double food production in the next 32 years to keep up with growing demand from a ballooning population. Some projects aimed at empowering smallholder farmers with better tools, techniques and opportunities to sell produce at competitive rates are bearing fruit.
A number of public-private producer partnerships using the SAP Rural Sourcing Management solution are showing promising results.
In Nigeria, 850 000 small maize producers have been integrated into agricultural value chains to improve crop production and empower smallholder farmers with better market access and more competitive prices for produce.