African leaders have been implored to improve public expenditure monitoring systems as well as disbursing funds for food security, nutrition, and agricultural production.
In 2003, the heads of state and government of the African Union recognised that greater public spending on agriculture was needed to eradicate hunger and poverty across the continent.
This prompted them to make a political commitment the Maputo Declaration to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budget to food and agriculture, under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
A new report titled Public expenditure on food and agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa: Trends, challenges and priorities, found few countries have met the 10 percent Maputo target, despite a renewed commitment in 2014 through the Malabo Declaration.
“This says that large financial commitments are not sufficient to enable a country to transform its agricultural sector.
“This is particularly true for donor-funded expenditures, where the share of unspent funds is substantially higher at around 40 percent,” read the report.
Together with the high reliance on donor expenditures, another driver of low budget execution rate in agriculture is the slow disbursement of funds in such a highly seasonal business, which requires certain investments at a very specific time of the year.
“This not only delays the implementation of potentially transformative projects but may also jeopardise future donor allocations to the agricultural sector.
“Also, the failure to spend the budgeted amounts may explain why finance ministries may be reluctant to allocate more financial resources to food and agriculture,” read the report
Overall, a number of sub-Saharan Africa countries still rely on donor funds for their agriculture sector, with the share of donor expenditure as a proportion of total agricultural spending averaging 36 percent.
The continent is facing an unprecedented economic crisis that could push an additional five million to 29 million people into poverty, end up to 19 million jobs and raise the number of undernourished people in food-importing countries by an additional 14.4 million to 80.3 million people.
Despite sub-Saharan Africa registering currently recording lower Covid-19 infections and deaths than other regions in the world, the latest economic projections from the International Monetary Fund say it could experience a contraction in regional economies by about three percent, with an average GDP per capita drop of up to 5.4 percent back to levels of the beginning of the decade.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, hunger in sub-Saharan Africa was slowly rising according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation. In 2019, an estimated 690 million people suffered from undernourishment, 235 million of whom were in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the region, agriculture remains the main source of employment and a critical sector in terms of economic development.
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