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Africa | The Emerging Continental Famine
Albert Goldson Albert Goldson
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Monday, April 11, 2022


The DarkShadow of Food Insecurity

The globalfood security crisis has reached the acute stage bordering on the inevitablecatastrophe. Although international organizations and government leadershipsworldwide have publicly acknowledged the dangers, even uttering the explosivelytaboo words such as “famine” and “food storage” to include developed countries,the near-term urgency was not communicated.

Admittedly it’sa savvy political and public relations tactic to avoid panic within their respectivecountries. Furthermore, few countries are prepared to successfully blunt thefood shortage reckoning. Food, not the threat of nuclear war, has become theexistential threat everywhere.

Africa |The First Domino

The first dominoto fall in the emerging global food famine is the African continent where thepoorest countries are located. Droughts, floods, climate change and wars on thecontinent have historically been regional, not continental, enablinginternational relief organizations to mitigate somewhat, the severity of thecrisis. Because of readily available surplus food elsewhere globally, theseorganizations were able to respond accordingly with emergency shipments.

However 2022presents a vastly different beast of a crisis. In addition to the “usualsuspects” of drought, famine and war on the continent, a faraway war in Ukrainehas adversely impacted the export of foodstuffs from that region from wheremany African countries are almost exclusively dependent. The major reasons whythis European war converts a shortfall in foodstuffs into a potential famine inAfrica are as follows:

·       Russia’scontrol of the Black Sea prevents Ukrainian agricultural exports.

·       Draconianwestern sanctions against Russia prevent countries from purchasing Russianagricultural goods.

·       Russiahas prohibited the export of agricultural products indefinitely until in orderto insure it has enough foodstuffs for their citizenry.

·       Forthis reason, the Russo-Ukrainian war has eliminated 30% of the world’sagricultural exports.


Thefollowing chart entitled Africa’s Major Reliance on Russian and Ukrainian Wheat provided by Trade Map, an organization that providesstatistics for international business, outlines the African continent’sdependence on Russo-Ukrainian wheat exports.

Thefollowing chart entitled The Most Vulnerable Countries Amid Wheat Shortages provided by the United Nations Conference on tradeand Development (UNCTAD) specifies the dependency of the most foodimport-dependent African countries.

The following chart provides the correspondingpopulation to the above respective African countries most at risk.


Population (2020) in millions









DR Congo








To put this food insecurity risk in perspective, the340 million African citizens, most of whom are present-day under imminent riskof famine and mass starvation, equate closely to the US population of 330million.

Even The‘Cavalry’ is Suffering Shortages

Internationalrelief organizations are scrambling to source foodstuffs from other breadbasketnations who themselves are suffering agricultural shortfalls. Decades and evenhistorical droughts in Brazil, China, the Middle East and the US have decimatedcrop yields. Even those countries with a modest surplus are imposing strict exportcontrols to ensure that they have a sufficient inventory buffer to feed theirown citizenry. These policies leave the poorest and most food import-dependent countries,many of which are in Africa, exceptionally vulnerable.

The Potholed Road to Salvation

Whatever surplus foodstuffs that can be shipped toAfrica will fall far short of what’s required to maintain any semblance ofsubsistence living. The pre-pandemic, pre-drought period presented toughlogistical challenges which remain unchanged.

The African continent has diverse topographicalfeatures which limits inter-African shipments creating a dependency onport-to-port shipments rather by rail or over land. This is one of the manyreasons why there is a paucity of inter-African trade.

The following chart entitled The True Size of Africa provided by the CIA, WorldPopulation Review and Visual Capitalist, an online publisher shows the sheergeographical size of Africa, so large that even Russia can comfortably fit insideits land mass.

Because the scale of global maps has historicallybeen notoriously inaccurate and distorted, by design or default, it gives awarped perception as to the size of countries and continents.

Firstly, Africa’s diverse topography has made theconstruction of inter-country inland roads and railways prohibitively expensivewhich has strangled inter-African trade.

Secondly, existing railways were constructed bycolonialists for the transport of extracted minerals to be shipped directlyfrom the mines to the ports, not to serve inter-African trade and commerce.

For this reason the initial overseas delivery offoodstuffs must be made at the ports. Afterward uploading deliveries inlandmust then be made by truck over poor road infrastructure which are oftencontrolled by de facto warlords and dominant ethnic groups who impose their own“tariffs” on commercial traffic for safe passage.

In the following list I’ve paraphrased and summarizedspecific logistical challenges typical in most sub-Saharan African countries fromthe article entitled Trade Flaws: Why It CostsSo Much to Move Goods Around Africa in The Economist dated March 26, 2022.

·       Poor port infrastructure.

·       The ports are small which slows the unloading of cargo. This increases thewaiting time of up to two weeks compared elsewhere which is less than a week.

·       About 80%-90% of all inland freight is transported over limited roadways.

·       Inland transportation is performed by small truck fleets which have 5 orfewer trucks and compose 80% of the ground freight transportation.

·       Internal political spats and between countries deliberately createadministrative roadblocks for customs clearances. Transport costs are made moreexpensive by regional business oligopolies, bribery and overall corruption.

The Reckoning

On the national level regardless how robust a country’s foreign reservesor ability to obtain generous funding from the IMF and other internationallending organizations, if there’s little to no food to purchase then all thegold in the world won’t stop the suffering.

A family’s budgeted cost of food in the developed world is 15% of income,20% in the emerging world and 40%-50% in under-developed countries - particularlyin sub-Sahara Africa. So even if someone with a stash of money or valuableitems to barter will still go hungry if there are outright food shortages. Forthis reason we could beat the cusp of witnessing one of the greatest famines in human history.

Under thesehellish conditions autocracies and even fragile, imperfect democracies can rapidlydevolve into failed dictatorships or perhaps failed states at the Mad Max levelof debauchery. Even the most developed countries could suffer mass civil unrestand maybe civil war.


As with thehurricanes that develop off the coast of Africa and move relentlessly westwardand then northward gaining strength before it makes landfall in the Gulf areaor East Coast, the same east-to-west food crisis movement is underway today.

From an economictextbook perspective, one would expect that the famine dominos fall in sequencefrom the poorest to the richest. But because of spikes in inflation, severely compromisedsupply chain and government interventions such as China’s brutal shutdown ofShanghai’s of 25 million citizens, food shortages could appear in developedcountries far sooner than predicted.


© Copyright 2022 Cerulean Council LLC

The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient,beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments ongeopolitical dynamics and global urban security.

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