Current State of Food Security in Africa


By Malcolm Durosaye

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2023 report, jointly issued by the FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO last Wednesday, confirms a rise in the prevalence of hunger in Africa post-COVID-19 lockdown, affecting 19.7 percent of the African population in 2022. This proportion of affected population is higher when compared with the other regions of the world – 8.5 percent in Asia, 6.5 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 7.0 percent in Oceania.

Among other highlights, the following are key findings:

Prevalence of Undernourishment

The prevalence of undernourishment in Africa rose from 19.4% in 2021 to 19.7% in 2022, driven mostly by increases in Northern and Southern Africa.

  • The number of people facing hunger in Africa is 282 million, an increase of 11 million since 2021 and more than 57 million since the outbreak of the pandemic  (see Figure 1).
  • The increase in hunger across most African subregions last year was due to food inflation, extreme climate events, as well as domestic challenges such as persistently high levels of unemployment and vulnerability to shocks.

Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity

  • Nearly one in four people in Africa (24 percent) faced severe food insecurity in 2022. This implies that they had run out of food at times during the year and, at worst, gone an entire day or more without eating.
  • About 868 million people in Africa faced food insecurity in 2022. The prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity increased on the continent by one percentage point from 59.9 percent in 2021 to 60.9 percent in 2022 (see Figure 2). The prevalence ranged from 25.9 percent in Southern Africa to 78.4 percent in Central Africa.
  • Compared to 2021, people with either moderate or severe food insecurity increased in 2022 by 2.4% in East Africa, 3.0% in Central Africa, and 1.2% in Southern Africa.
  • There was also an uptick in the prevalence of severe food insecurity in Northern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, and Western Africa in 2022 by 0.8%, 1.3%, 1.5%, and 0.3%, respectively.

Cost and affordability of a healthy diet

  • In 2021, the average cost of a healthy diet was 3.57 PPP dollars per person per day.
  • The cost of a healthy diet in 2021 rose on the continent by 5.6 percent in comparison to 2020, and by 7.9 percent compared to the pre-COVID-19-pandemic levels, in 2019. This increase is due to the overall rise in inflation in 2020 and 2021.
  • In 2021, more than 1 billion people in Africa, which is 77.5 percent of the population, were unable to afford a healthy diet. This is an increase of 51 million people compared to 2019, before the pandemic. This reflects the rise in the cost of a healthy diet and the decrease in disposable income in many countries (see Figure 3).

Progress towards global nutrition targets

  • There has been steady progress in reducing child stunting since 2012, currently at 30 percent in Africa. However, the continent is still not on track to achieve the 2030 target of 17.2 percent (50 percent reduction in the number of stunted children from the baseline of 34.4%).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is making some progress in reducing child wasting, however, it is worsening in Northern Africa.
  • No significant progress has been made towards 2030 target on childhood overweight in Africa.

In conclusion, hunger is on the rise in Africa with little progress made toward achieving the global nutrition targets. The findings reveal that significant challenges remain in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms in many countries — where people are still struggling to recover income losses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been hit by climbing food and energy prices, or have had daily life disrupted by conflicts or extreme weather events. Below are some policy recommendations to address these challenges:

  • Subnational and local governments must play a key role in designing and implementing policies beyond their administrative authority, engaging with agrifood systems stakeholders at all levels.
  • Governments must pursue programmes directed at boosting the production of nutritious foods and supporting the diversification of food production.
  • Public investment in research and development needs to be increased to develop technologies and innovations to create healthier food environments and increase the availability and affordability of nutritious foods.
  • Support poor households through cash transfers and income opportunities.
  • Reduce the demand for energy-dense foods high in fats, sugars and/or salt using taxes and fiscal policies.