Africa tops the trio of continents set for rise in food demand

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Africa is a region where there is an enormous potential to increase calorie consumption per capita. (image:
Africa is a region where there is an enormous potential to increase calorie consumption per capita. (image:

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Africa has the greatest potential for growth in food consumption over the next 25 years, according to a report, as the continent’s young demographic and lower-than-average calorie consumption provides huge export potential.
Africa youth
Africa has a large number of youths: a springboard for strong population growth. (image: US Census Bureau, International Database.)

Africa expects to feed another 750 million people over the next quarter century. In order to feed this growing population - estimated to hit 1.91 billion by 2050 - it will need to either grow or purchase an enormous amount of additional food. 

And while using African resources to look after its population is the preferred choice, growing crop on African farmland remains a challenge. With the Sahara desert to the north, jungles in the middle and another desert in Southwest Africa, the remaining land is also deemed unsuitable for growing crops.  In addition, rainfall remains inconsistent.

As generating an agricultural surplus remains a long-term challenge, in the short-term it will have to import some of the additional food required. 

In 2014, Euromonitor International estimated that the Middle East and Africa’s turnover of agricultural produce totalled €442m ($482.7m), while the region’s ingredients market was estimated at €59m ($64.5m).

“This is a huge opportunity for farmers in Europe and the United States who have a direct interest in Africa’s growth and prosperity, and for global agribusinesses, to the extent that it can help boost Africa’s “domestic” food production sustainability,”​ said the report by CME Group, entitled The Future of Food Demand: China, Africa and India​.

Africa currently has a lower-than-average per capita calorie consumption, a figure that also has the highest potential for growth. According to Euromonitor International, the average intake of food calories per person, per day in the Middle East and Africa in 2016 is 2714.7Kcal. In comparison, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations identifies the daily dietary energy consumption per capita in 2005-07 for a U.S adult is 3770Kcal.

Logistics and politics

The report added that African efforts to improve its infrastructure would be hampered given Africa’s other major issue: political fragmentation.

Africa is currently governed by 55-57 governments, making policy coordination and infrastructure development difficult. “While Africa has enormous potential to increase its per capita food consumption, the fractured nature of Africa’s political system will make achieving this a challenge,”​ the report concluded. 

“Even so, its young demographics make it the single-most promising export market for farmers in the rest of the world over the next quarter century.”  

Meanwhile for food companies looking for a successful business plan in Africa, marketing and branding is crucial. Market analysts have said the continent offers enormous untapped potential for companies who are able to foster an emotional connection their brands.

The report also identified the difficulty in generating a capital surplus as another major developmental challenge for the continent.

“Access to waterborne transportation is crucial to the accumulation of capital,” ​the report said. “Waterborne transportation is vastly more energy efficient and less costly than any other form transport including rail, which itself is more efficient than moving goods by road or air.”

The river systems and deep water ports have often been overlooked as important contributors to the agricultural prosperity of the United States and Western Europe. Europe has deep water ports such as Bordeaux and Edinburgh, and navigable rivers including the Danube and the Thames, while the U.S and Canada share the Great Lakes.

The report believed Africa’s major rivers, the Congo, the Niger and the Nile would be difficult to navigate but not impossible. Its deep water ports located in Cape Town and Mombasa were few in number and compared to the United States or Western Europe,  trade and transportation was an additional challenge.

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