IMF warns of “risks of social unrest” in Africa

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Soaring food prices caused by the war in Ukraine are increasing “the risk of social unrest” in Africa, the International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday, fourteen years after the “food riots”.

Are the seeds of new “food riots” being planted in sub-Saharan Africa? A little early to tell, but soaring food prices have the International Monetary Fund fearing “social unrest” on the continent.

“Fears about food security have increased significantly” with the war in Ukraine and the explosion of food prices, increasing “the risks of social unrest” in vulnerable countries, alerted, Thursday 28 April, the Washington institution in a regional report.

“We are very concerned about the recent spike in food and fuel prices” on the continent, IMF Africa Department Director Abebe Aemro Selassie told AFP, noting the risks of “social protests”.

“This shock hits the poorest in an extremely targeted manner, by increasing food prices, those of fuel and transport in general, and at the end of the chain the producers of goods and services which raise their prices”, he added. he continued.

The spike in food prices is unprecedented: they hit a new high in March and erased the previous high from 2011, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) index. , which includes tariffs for vegetable oils, cereals or dairy products.

85% imported wheat

The rise in wheat prices is “particularly concerning”, writes the IMF in its report entitled “a new shock and little room for maneuver”. Because sub-Saharan Africa imports 85% of its cereal consumption, with particularly high amounts in Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Mozambique.

More broadly, imports of wheat, rice and maize represent more than 40% of the calories consumed each day by the inhabitants of Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius and Cape Verde, details a graph from the international organization, which sees among the countries most weakened by food insecurity Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the States around the Sahel.

Two months after the start of the war in Ukraine and while the conflict shows no sign of abating, “the rise in food prices will exacerbate food insecurity and social tensions”, fears the IMF.

It was precisely a sharp increase in the prices of staple foods that preceded the “hunger riots” of 2008, more or less violent protest movements in some thirty countries, particularly in Senegal and Cameroon, as well as in the Maghreb and the Caribbean.

Should we fear an act 2? The IMF remains cautious about potential violent revolts. FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu drew a parallel in April between the 2008 explosion and the current situation: the two crises are marked by soaring food, fuel and fertilizer prices, as well as transportation, he said.

The situation is even potentially more problematic this time, he added, due to two years of pandemic and the major risks that the war in Ukraine poses to next year’s crops.

The pandemic has increased the number of undernourished people to a quarter of the sub-Saharan population in 2021, the IMF calculates.

A repetition of 2008 “can be avoided”, however estimated Qu Dongyu, evoking the need not to see an acceleration of the export restrictions on food.

The IMF is also concerned about the budgetary capacities of States, in a region whose economic growth should slow down this year to 3.8%: “many more countries in sub-Saharan Africa were in better budgetary health in 2008-2009 to absorb the shock,” says Abebe Aemro Selassien.

“This time, with such high public debts in so many countries, the room for maneuver is greatly reduced”, according to the Africa director who calls on the international community to support the region “in the most energetic way possible”.

With AFP

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