"Africa is now facing the same type of long-term food deficit problem that India faced in the early 1960s", says a paper by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a US-based think-tank.
In the early 1960s India faced a major food crisis.
African countries are not spending enough on agriculture and the overall productivity of the continent has dropped since the mid-1980s, said the paper which looked at trends in public spending on agriculture in Africa.
"Since the 1960s, Africa has lost ground in the global marketplace. Its share of total world agricultural exports fell from 6 percent in the 1970s to 2 percent in 2007," said the paper entitled, Public Spending for Agriculture in Africa: Trends and Composition.
The paper was produced by researchers who work with IFPRI's Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS).
Spending money on food production is critical in Africa, where 70 percent of people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income.
There are also going to be more people to feed in Africa in the next few decades. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to grow faster than elsewhere by 2050, increasing by 910 million people, or 108 percent; East and Southeast Asia's population is set to rise by only 228 million, or 11 percent, according to UN projections.
Ten percent target
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In 2003, the continent adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and countries committed to allocating 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture.
Only eight African countries have reached or surpassed the 10 percent target, according to CAADP.
Erratic weather could be turning the screws on food security in Africa as well. Drought-hit Niger features in the eight countries to have allocated the required 10 percent of their budget to agriculture to become food secure, but failed rains have driven more than three million of its people into food insecurity and pushed Niger back onto the list of food aid dependent countries where it last featured in 2004.
The other countries to reach the 10 percent target are Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
There has been a 75 percent increase in the amount governments spend on agriculture from 2000 to 2005 but the CAADP target "remains unmet because of the very low initial base and the declining trends prior to 2000", says the IFPRI paper.
The researchers used another measure - agricultural Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) - to assess the amount countries spend on agriculture. Babatunde Omilola, ReSAKSS coordinator explained how it was calculated. "This measure of government spending on agriculture weighs in the size of the sector in the overall economy and takes into account factors such as revenue generated and its impact on poverty reduction."
"With the exception of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, African countries have spent less than 10 percent of their agricultural GDPs on agriculture in recent decades."
Africa spends 5-7 percent as a share of agricultural GDP on food production, whereas Asia spent 8-10 percent. But the range in spending in Africa is quite considerable. "For example, Botswana had the highest percentage in 2005 at 60 percent, while Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana spent less than 2 percent in the same year."
Meanwhile, donor funding for agriculture in Africa has dropped dramatically - from 15 percent in the 1980s to 4 percent in 2006- but the amount countries allocate from aid to food production also varies quite considerably. In 2007 Botswana and Nigeria spent less than 1 percent of all aid received on agriculture. However, Burkina Faso in 2006 spent 8 percent of its total aid on agriculture.
How countries are spending
Photo: Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System
|How African countries are faring on the CAADP target - this is based on ReSAKSS' 2010 assessment|