LUSAKA — By United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) estimates, the number of those undernourished in Africa has increased despite efforts to combat the problem through the Millennium Development Goals. When comparing 1990 to 1992, to 2014 to 2016 levels, the number of undernourished in millions has increased by 19.6 percent in East Africa, 143.7 percent in Middle Africa and 2.3 percent in Southern Africa, with the only decrease occurring in West Africa by 29.4 percent.
Better means to addressing food insecurity in African countries is essential. Zambia has recently stepped up and offered $93.5 million in contracts to export grains to countries suffering from droughts and have acquired buyers in East and Southern Africa with at least 337,000 tons of maize, soybeans and so forth.
Acting Zambia Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) executive director Jacob Mwale confirms that this new deal took place through the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC), supported by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) and East and Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub.
The resulting trade forum brought together almost 200 sellers and buyers of grains from African countries, including, but not limited to, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Zambia’s roles is significant as it is expecting to have a staple food surplus of 1.2 million tons this year, which can greatly address food insecurity in African countries while strengthening current food trade relations.
USAID and implemented by Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) supports that this is the second of this year’s forums to assist in the trade of grains, the first being in March by USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub (EATIH). Held in Ethiopia, and the first of its kind in the country, the trade forum created $93.1 million in contracts and supplied six countries with grains grown by Ethiopian farmers.
The EATIH alongside these recent accomplishments works to strengthen trade and investments with and within East Africa, as in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mauritius. The organization does so by improving regional integration, competitiveness of agricultural value chains and promoting two-way trade with the U.S under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
To date they have supported $249 million in exports, $56 million in private sector investment, 38,183 in jobs, 710 food security producers and organizations, 1,310 firms and many more projects.
Correspondingly the USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (SATIH) has been working with Zambia in a way that’s modeled after Ethiopia’s own trade forum. Zambian Commodity Exchange teamed up with SATIH to better structure trading and markets for smallholder crops , and to ensure that permits, documentation and safety standards are being upheld in conjunction with government regulations.
Transactions were further incentivized by a recent lift of an export ban and ten percent tax by the Zambian government. Both Zambia and Ethiopia work together to improve African self-sustainability, amplify resource trade, stabilize grain supply and prices, reduce malnutrition and move towards more food security in the region.
The Zambian contracts are expected to provide food for 1.78 million families for six months, and bring some solution to food insecurity in African countries.
– Zar-Tashiya Khan