The Future of Africa
Can the world’s poorest continent soon become self-sufficient?
By: David McDonald
I firmly believe that in the coming years, humanity will make the largest strives in history
in terms of cutting down on poverty. The resources we encompass as a society provide
us with more than enough tools to complete this task. Together, we can optimize our
ability to cut down on global poverty through the use of social media, new emerging
technologies, and a growing population.
Although poverty still remains a relevant issue in developed countries, my focus for this
article will be on Africa. Personally, I think the continent will experience some of the
greatest agricultural breakthroughs it has ever seen in the near future, and with the help
of developed nations around the globe, we can make their dream of soon becoming a
middle-class continent possible.
The Challenge for Africa
It is projected that by the year 2050 the population of Africa will double to 2 billion
people while, at the same time, the land available for cultivation will decrease by two
These two factors combined raise the question of how to produce food and nutrition for
the growing population. Moreover, this will also affect the development of the volatile
African economy, since 65 per cent of its labour force and 32 per cent of its gross
domestic product currently come from the agricultural sector.
What Obstacles Does The Continent Need to Overcome In Order to Reach Prosperity?
While it is common knowledge that Africa has been poor for centuries, many are unsure
as to why the continent can’t make the jump from underdeveloped to middle-class.
The main problem lies with their heavy dependence on foreign aid (medicine, food,
technology). Because the continent has a very small manufacturing sector, as well as a
low ability to produce goods for export, they need to rely on imports in order to feed their
people and grow their economy.
Harvard University professor Calestous Juma stated how Africa was the only continent
with arable land readily available to expand agriculture, and that southern Sudan alone
could feed all Africans if it was properly developed.
“An African agricultural revolution is within reach, provided the continent can focus on
supporting small-scale farmers to help meet national and regional demand for food,”
A possible Agricultural Innovation in Africa calls on politicians to put agricultural
expansion at the heart of decision-making about everything from transport and
communications to education and innovation.
But for this innovation to take place, politicians must tackle a series of pressing issues:
Lack of Farming Technology
Many African farmers lack the tools needed to cultivate crops on a yearly basis due to
For example, fertilizers are expensive, but they help to increase harvests. This is
particularly important in Africa, where soils are often poor and exhausted by continual
use (many farmers cannot afford to let land lie fallow).
Irrigation technology (e.g. drip-feed systems, micro-sprinklers) also boosts yields.
Unfortunately, many African farmers need financial assistance to invest in such
technology. In Ethiopia, for example, less than 4% of land is irrigated.
Specially-developed plants (from ‘hybrid seeds’) give higher yields and are less
susceptible to diseases. Maize hybrids have been available for some time and new
varieties of African crops such as cassava and sorghum are being introduced. However,
hybrid seeds usually cost more and take-up remains low. In Ghana, for example, only
3% of the country’s seed is hybrid (compared to 90% in Brazil).
Climate change is affecting all regions of the globe. But some places, such as Africa,
are more vulnerable to climate change’s devastating effects than others. This is
particularly true because of the continent’s very high dependency on agriculture.
By 2050, average temperatures in Africa are predicted to increase by 1.5 to 3°C, and
will continue further upwards beyond this time. This means that farmers will have to use
more water when cultivating crops in order to get the same yield.
According to excerpts from the IPCC reports yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50% by 2020, and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90% by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected. This would adversely affect food security in the continent and exacerbate malnutrition.
Although these are severely harsh claims, it is a realistic future that could await Africa’s
agricultural sector in the future.
Rapidly Growing Population
When compared to the rest of the world, Africa has by far the most rapidly increasing
population, yet their food production isn’t increasing by anywhere near this amount.
What has many Africans worried is whether or not they will be able to feed themselves
in the coming decades. It is uneconomical to rely heavily on imported food because they
will go further into debt. It is also worrisome that they need to lean on foreign aid in
order to cure vaccines and feed themselves (i.e. charities).
Although African food production has seen a slight rise in recent years, this rise is not
nearly high enough to meet future demands.
Lack of Medical Care
The graph above depicts life expectancies across the globe. Africa has by far the lowest
of any other continent with an average of around 50 years.
Their lack of health care is due to a stagnated economy, overpopulation in rural areas,
and a lack of hospitals across the continent. Accompany that with a severe hunger
epidemic, and you have the lowest life expectancies on the planet.
With All Of This Being Said, Can Africa Become Self-Sufficient?
Personally, I have a lot of hope for Africa and I truly believe they will experience the
most growth in centuries in the coming years in terms of their agricultural production and
overall quality of life.
Going back to the words of Harvard professor Calestous Juma, “It is the responsibility of
an African president to modernise the economy, and that means starting with the
modernisation of agriculture.”
The African government is fully aware of what’s at stake if they do not find an answer to
the increasing demand for food within the continent, and they are well on their way to
implementing the proper steps that will see Africa become prosperous again.
Muna’s proposal includes the modernisation of farms, with new machinery and storage
and processing facilities, and the selective use of genetically modified crops. He calls for
new roads, energy sources and irrigation projects that will collectively help farmers
Juma said that food self-sufficiency would require big shifts in policies that have led to
dependence on food aid and imports. His book calls for more direct involvement by political leaders in sectors such as water, energy, transport, communications and education.
The future for Africa is with their agricultural sector, and the future of their agriculture will only be achieved if local farmers can receive the technology and resources possible to
farm appropriately. Farmers across Africa simply don’t have the proper knowledge on
how to cultivate crops effectively, as well as a lack of access to farming necessities such
Africa has the largest access to available farming land on the planet, but lacks the
resources to tap into this generally untouched market.
The next step is for foreign intervention to fund new farming technologies, instead of just
sending food over to Africa. If we only send food, they will eat the food and then they will
need more food. If we send money for farming technologies, fertilizer, farming
equipment, they will be one step closer to not being reliant on Foreign aid.
Charitable Movements For This Cause
My favorite charity for promoting self-sufficiency in Africa is the Bill and Melinda gates
fund. They have made huge claims about the future of Africa, and have even gone so
far as to say that they will be self-sufficient within the next 15 years.
They plan to accomplish this by providing African farmers with the necessary
technologies and farming knowledge in order to maximize their crop yield. They are
pushing the envelope with their goal to put cell phones in the hands of millions of
Africans – letting them bank mobily, as well as access information via cellular device.
Other companies are running with this idea. Facebook is trying to fly solar planes above
Africa and other remote areas on the globe in an attempt to get free wifi to remote
places. If African farmers can receive cell phones with wifi from these solar planes, they
will be able to research farming strategies online, as well as do online banking and
online transaction via their cellphones.
Their goal is to maximize the production of the land that is already being used by
farmers. Along with this organization, there are many other funds that are working to
expand the available farmland in Africa and thus, giving Africans the best chance at
feeding themselves in the coming future.
Thank you so much for reading and if you want to gain further knowledge on this issue,
or donate money to this cause, make sure to check out these great charities!
David is currently studying Public Management and economics at the University Of Guelph. He enjoys writing about the most pressing issues in modern society and sharing his views with the world. David hopes to become an accomplished journalist someday.