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Africa: Africa Economy, agriculture and food security





Africa Economy, agriculture and food security

Poverty is common and sometimes extreme in Africa. Thirty-four of the 49 least developed countries (LDCs) are African and 315 million people, or 36 % of the total population, survive on less than US$1/day. The sum of national GDPs in 2003 amounted to US$641 000 million, or barely 5 % of the GDP of the United States of America. It corresponds on average to a GDP of US$738/inhabitant, ranging from US$91/inhabitant in Ethiopia to US$8 890/inhabitant in Seychelles. The HDI (range = 0-1) varies from 0.273 in Sierra Leone to 0.853 in Seychelles (35th out of a total of 177 countries), while the 19 countries with the lowest HDI are African. The HDI for Liberia and Somalia is not known.

In 2003, the added value of the primary sector (agriculture) contributed 2.5 % to the GDP in Botswana and 60.8 % in the Central African Republic, with an average for the whole of Africa of 17.7 %. More than half of the economically active people are engaged in the farming sector . The Northern (28 %), Gulf of Guinea (40 %) and Southern Regions (46 %) are exceptions. The more developed Northern Region has less agriculture and more industries and services. Nigeria, a large oil-exporting country, has a large impact on the data of the Gulf of Guinea Region. Finally, South Africa (where development is very marked), Namibia and Botswana, three countries where apartheid was formerly practised, are responsible for this reduced %age of active agricultural workers. At a country level, Burundi and Rwanda, where 90 % of the total labour force is engaged in the primary sector, are the two countries with the most limited cultivable area per inhabitant on the continent (less than 0.2 ha/person). Conversely, Namibia and Gabon, with the largest cultivable area per person (12.4 and 11.2 ha/person, respectively), have less than 40 %  of their economically active people working in the primary sector. With 5 % of the economically active people engaged in agriculture and cultivating about 23 ha per active agricultural worker, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is the country that allocates the lowest %age of economically active people to this sector.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has reached such a scale that it influences the economy of those countries most affected. About two-thirds (64 %) of all the people infected by AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), as well as more than three-quarters (76 %) of all the women who have acquired this disease. The incidence of the disease in the SSA region was almost 7.4 % at the end of 2004. The Northern Region has an incidence of less than 0.3 % for people aged 15-49 years, and Mozambique with an incidence of 12.2 % is the least affected country in the Southern Region. Four countries in the Southern Region have an incidence rate of 20-30 % : Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, in increasing order. In Botswana and Swaziland, the incidence is even higher at 37.3 and 38.8 %, respectively. The other regions fall between these two extremes: The national-level incidence ranges from 0.6 to 4.8 % in the Sudano-Sahelian Region, from 1 to 7 % in the Gulf of Guinea Region, from 4.1 to 8.8 % in the Eastern Region, and from 3.9 to 13.5 % in the Central Region. In the Indian Ocean Islands Region, only the incidence for Madagascar is known (1.7 %).

This disease causes a significant increase in rural poverty and malnutrition, two plagues already widespread in Africa. It aggravates difficulties for rural women; the rates of infection can be 3-5 times higher for women than for men. Finally, the disease exerts a negative impact on household food security as well as on the national food production because of the loss of agricultural workers, notably in countries where agriculture contributes considerably to GDP. Indeed, the largest number of infected people is in the 15-49 year age bracket, the most productive group in the population. Therefore, the population composition has been modified, leading to a situation where old and young people predominate. When a family member is affected, the family not only has to compensate for the loss in income but also has to take care of the patient.

In 2004, FAO estimated that in the 25 most affected countries in Africa, about 7 million agricultural workers had been victims of AIDS since 1985; another 16 million could become victims before 2020. The most affected African countries could lose up to 26 % of their labour force in the next two decades. Average life expectancy in SSA is now 47 years, while it would have been 62 years without AIDS. In Botswana, life expectancy at birth has fallen to its 1950 level, but Zimbabwe has seen the most dramatic drop with life expectancy falling from 55 years in 1970 to 33 years in 2003.

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