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Change border restrictions and Africa could feed itself: World Bank

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Farmers in Africa could grow enough food to feed the continent and alleviate hunger, according to the World Bank.

A recent report by the World Bank made the prediction, but said it could only happen “if countries remove cross-border restrictions on the food trade within the region.”

Currently, 19 million people living in West Africa’s Sahel region already face hunger and malnutrition, the report found.

The African continent would also generate an extra US$20 billion in yearly earnings if African leaders dismantled “trade barriers that blunt more regional dynamism,” The Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing barriers to regional trade in food staples report said.

It continued that rapid urbanisation will provide challenges for African farmers trying to ship their cereals and other foods to consumers when the nearest trade market is just across a national border.

Many African farmers are effectively cut off from the high-yield seeds, affordable fertilizers and pesticides to expand their crop production, which has led to the continent becoming reliant on foreign imports to meet its growing staple food needs.

“The key challenge for the continent is how to create a competitive environment in which governments embrace credible and stable policies that encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production across the region, so that farmers get the capital, the seeds, and the machinery they need to become more efficient, and families get enough good food at the right price.” Paul Brenton, the World Bank’s Lead Economist for Africa and principal author of the report said.

Last year Australian Foreign Minsiter Kevin Rudd announced a commitment from Australia to assist Africa improve economic growth through investment and trade.

Australia’s trade with African countries has grown steadily over the last decade at an annual average rate of just over 6 per cent, according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Australia’s total merchandise trade with Africa was valued at $5.8 billion in 2009-10.

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