The Corner

Africa Can Feed Itself

No, this is not a Marie Antoinette moment, but instead an aspiration voiced persuasively by Thompson Ayodele, head of a Nigerian think tank called the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis. He attributes the food crisis to too much aid and too little trade:

While the U.S. food aid might feed few millions of Africans, it does not do so for long. Africa should not need food aid to feed its population. Africa can feed its own people—the problem is that it has never been allowed to try to succeed. The continent has been held back in food production by harsh local policies and an unfair trade regime inflicted on it by the developed world.

Eighty-five percent of Africans live in rural communities. Their main occupation is farming. They rely on it to feed themselves and their families. What profit can be had used to buy other farm implements and chemicals needed to enhance yields and reduce manual labor. The European Union Common Agriculture Policy and the U.S. farm policy of providing subsidies to farmers have been displacing African agriculture products, and hence limiting income that could have been used to re-invest to enhance increased production. This has retarded growth in the continent while at the same time undermining food production.

According to the World Bank, if the U.S. and E.U. abrogate or reduce the subsidies to their own farmers, the impact will be felt in lifting millions of Africans out of poverty. Despite calls for phasing out these trade-distorting policies, the U.S and the E.U have been shifting the goalpost—contrary to the agreement reached during the Doha Round. Unfortunately, trade talks to get this agreement ratified have ended in fiasco.

While many on the Left are more than willing to savage the West for a host of imagined sins, all too few get rowdy on subjects where the West is truly guilty, as in cases such as protectionism and (as Ayodele also discusses) environmental extremism.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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