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Africa needs electricity for its food security

There is an exam question parliamentarians all over the world must answer: what are you doing to ensure that local energy resources in the developing world enable the population to access energy for creating jobs and food security so that instability is avoided?

The recent coup in Gabon is a symptom of the instability that affects resource-rich countries where the population lacks access to energy and jobs and are at risk of food insecurity. The need for additional electricity supplies to address poverty and malnutrition was also highlighted at the recent Brics Summit.

In addition to a donation from China to South Africa of equipment to keep the lights on at hospitals and other public institutions, countries also discussed collaboration to improve access to affordable energy and move to cleaner power production.

These developments highlighted one of Africa’s pressing problems – it desperately needs more electricity. Without a reliable electricity supply, economies will not grow, businesses will not create jobs and poverty levels will increase.

The result: more hunger and poverty, less food security and social stability. For example, South Africa has been subjected to almost daily power cuts for nearly a year now as Eskom struggles to meet demand.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Eskom pushes load shedding to stage 2 until Monday

Load shedding

When the power cuts increased to more than six hours a day recently, business and agriculture warned that food security was under threat.

Parliamentarians have the ability to ensure that agricultural and industrial innovation, like using local oil and gas for manufacturing modern fertilisers, act against predatory trade practices like dumping and cheap energy access for farmers and food producers become a reality by standing up to those who refuse to finance the development of local energy resources in Africa.

Electricity is essential for modern agriculture, crop irrigation, round-the-clock operations such as poultry production, and for food processing and packaging. It is also essential for retailers who rely on extensive refrigeration.

SA’s food security warnings were coupled with concerns that conditions were creating a repeat of the July 2021 riots. The severity of power cuts fluctuates, but food insecurity has increased because of rapidly rising food prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Food security

SA is food-secure at a national level but not a household level, mainly because poor people cannot afford to buy available food. SA has Africa’s most developed economy and a well-developed agricultural sector.

Elsewhere in Africa, the situation is far worse. Africa has the world’s fastest growing population – its 1.4 billion people are expected to increase to 1.7 billion by 2030. But the access to electricity is going backwards. The International Energy

Agency (IEA) linked this to increasing poverty and declining food security. The IEA reported last year that 4% more people in Africa lived without electricity in 2021 than in 2019.

“There are also deepening financial difficulties of utilities, the increasing risk of utilities, increasing risks of blackouts and rationing. These problems are contributing to a sharp increase in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with the number of people affected by food crises quadrupling in some areas,” the IEA said.


To add to Africa’s woes, this year the world is faced with the return of El Niño, the weather influencer which affects global weather patterns and rainfall. In Africa, El Niño can bring drought or floods to different parts of the continent. The last El Niño phenomenon in 2015-16 was devastating. Either weather extremes will reduce food production and increase hunger.

This brings us back to electricity. To address poverty and malnutrition, Africa must have stable food production. This requires a stable and reliable supply of electricity. Electricity supply depends on a number of factors, including a stable government and a thriving private sector, which creates jobs that will help to relieve poverty and hunger.

If countries are to fix their electricity problems, they must also address their governance issues. The best conditions to develop and maintain a reliable energy supply to industry will be in countries where there are market solutions and private ownership, and where rule-of-law institutions are empowered against corruption.

Africa has abundant energy and parliamentarians should help these resources to be used to better effect.

ALSO READ: Food price increases slowing and settling, but at higher price point

from The Citizen https://www.citizen.co.za/news/opinion/africa-needs-electricity-food-security/

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