Food Insecurity: Ten Most-Hit African Countries in 2023

Shefiu Muib
By Muib Shefiu 9 Min Read

Food insecurity in Africa is a critical issue fueled by climate change, insufficient infrastructure, currency depreciation, domestic supply disruptions, increased fertilizer prices, and economic instability. WFP estimates – from 78 of the countries where it works (and where data is available) – that more than 333 million people are facing acute levels of food insecurity in 2023, and do not know where their next meal is coming from. 

Escalating prices of essential foods disproportionately affect vulnerable communities, worsening poverty and food insecurity in the Middle East and Africa. According to the IMF, 61.9% of low income countries still experience more than 5% inflation on food commodities as of October, 2023.

Below are the top ten most-hit countries in Africa according to World Bank data.

Sierra Leone64.7
Burundi and Malawi34.4
The Gambia23.2

Food Produce, worst affected by price inflation

Cassava83.2 %
Palm oil3.4%

Egypt (Food Price Inflation rate – 71.3%)

As of October 2023, Egypt has secured an unwelcome distinction, boasting the highest global inflation rate at a staggering 71.3%, as per World Bank data. This surge, encapsulated by a consumer price index (CPI) scaling 187 points, has cast a looming shadow over the quintessential Egyptian dietary staple, wheat, integral to the traditional Baladi bread. 

In May, the peak of this inflationary tide saw wheat prices cresting at 22.05 Egyptian pounds (equivalent to 0.71 U.S. dollars) per kilogram, only to find a somewhat subdued plateau at 19.43 Egyptian pounds (0.63 U.S. dollars) per kilogram. The economic landscape in Egypt stands at a critical juncture, navigating through the turbulent waters of inflation that ripple through the daily lives of its citizens.

Zimbabwe (Food Price Inflation rate – 70.8%)

In August 2023, Zimbabwe emerged as the world’s second-most inflation-battered nation, grappling with a daunting 70.8% inflation rate and a Consumer Price Index (CPI) perched at 108.13. The repercussions reverberate through the core of the nation’s food security, with maize—vital for 98% of the population and a cornerstone in daily staples like sadza, Mutakura, and Mxan’a—bearing the brunt. 

Despite a semblance of stability in maize prices attributed to heightened reliance on U.S. dollars, the annual food inflation has seen a worrisome uptick from 24% (October) to 29% (November), catapulting maize prices to a daunting 3,059 Zimbabwean dollars per kilogram. The economic narrative unfolds against a backdrop of evolving dynamics, as Zimbabwe navigates the intricate challenges posed by inflation, shaping the contours of daily life for its populace.

Sierra-Leone (Food Price Inflation rate – 64.7%)

August 2023 witnessed Sierra Leone claiming an unfortunate spot as the world’s third most inflation-impacted nation, grappling with a daunting 64.7% inflation rate and a Consumer Price Index (CPI) standing at 193.41. The repercussions are particularly felt in the realm of rice, a vital staple cultivated by 85% of the nation’s farmers. 

However, inflation has cast a shadow over this essential grain, driving up prices by 7.8% for imported rice and 8.7% for local varieties when compared to Q2 2023. The annual surge is even more pronounced, with increases reaching 41% and 40.8% for imported and local rice, respectively. This economic turbulence paints a complex picture for Sierra Leone, as it grapples with the multifaceted challenges posed by inflation, reshaping the dynamics of food security and agricultural sustainability.

Ghana (Food Price Inflation rate – 44.8%)

In the latest economic landscape, Ghana stakes its claim as the world’s fourth most inflation-burdened nation, grappling with a substantial 44.8% inflation rate as of October 2023. Within the same timeframe, the nation marked a historic pinnacle with its Consumer Price Index (CPI) soaring to an unprecedented 195.24 points, a notable climb from 194.13 points in the preceding September. 

This inflationary surge casts a widespread impact, notably affecting pivotal staples like yam, maize, and rice—essentials woven into the fabric of Ghana’s dietary and cultural tapestry. The economic narrative unfurls against a backdrop of burgeoning challenges, as Ghana navigates the intricate terrain of inflation’s far-reaching consequences on its essential commodities.

Burundi and Malawi (Food Price Inflation rate – 34.4%)

Burundi and Malawi rank as the fifth most inflated countries with a 34.4% rate. The food inflation has notably impacted their consumer price indices (CPI), reaching historical highs. In October, Burundi’s CPI rose to 202.60 points, while Malawi’s reached 151.28 points, reflecting the substantial impact on their respective economies and food prices.

Nigeria (Food Price Inflation rate – 31.5%)

In the current economic tableau, Nigeria claims the seventh position globally in inflation as of October 2023, registering a formidable 31.5%. This surge culminated in an unprecedented Consumer Price Index (CPI) scaling new heights at 616.50 points during the same month.

The National Bureau of Statistics highlights profound impacts on key food items, painting a vivid picture of escalating costs:

  • Rice witnessed a yearly surge of 62% and a monthly increment of 13%
  • Beans experiencing a yearly uptick of 27% and a monthly increase of 3.88%
  • Yam reflects a yearly spike of 42.8% and a monthly rise of 2.10%
  • Palm oil demonstrated a yearly surge of 38.13% and a monthly increment of 2.48%
  • Garri, experiencing a yearly increase of 49.16% and a monthly uptick of 6.15%. This economic narrative unfolds against a global backdrop, encapsulating the intricate challenges posed by inflation on Nigeria’s vital commodities, captivating the interest of a discerning international audience.

Ethiopia (Food Price Inflation rate – 27.1%)

Ethiopia holds the eighth position in global inflation, recording a 27.1% rate as of September 2023, resulting in a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase to 415 points in October 2023. International Growth Centre notes that price rises in food items, including bread, cereals, oils, fats, vegetables, food products, main spices, and non-alcoholic beverages, contribute to 95% of Ethiopia’s food inflation.

Gambia (Food Price Inflation rate – 23. 2%)

Gambia ranks ninth globally in inflation, registering a 23.2% rate and 149.6 CPI points. The Gambia Bureau of Statistics highlights significant yearly increments in key foodstuffs:

  • Maize: 46.2%
  • Rice: 11.6%
  • Meat: 15.2%
  • Onion: 52.4%

Rwanda (Food Price Inflation rate – 22.5%) 

Rwanda records a 22.5% inflation rate with a CPI of 201. The National Statistics of Rwanda reveals that 72% of households are affected, leading to reduced food purchases. In March 2023, local products saw a 20.8% annual and 2.2% monthly increase, while imported products rose by 14.8% annually and 0.6% monthly. Fresh products experienced a 53% annual and 5.3% monthly increase.

In a profound analysis, the deepening food insecurity crisis in Africa unfolds as a confluence of intricate factors: climate change, insufficient infrastructure, currency depreciation, and economic instability. From 2020 to 2022, staple food prices witnessed an alarming surge of 23.9%, marking the highest spike since the tumultuous days of the 2008 global financial crisis. 

This dire scenario places Africa’s top ten affected nations in the clutches of severe inflation, causing a ripple effect on essential commodities. The urgency for intervention looms large, as these nations grapple with the imperative for sustainable solutions in the face of an escalating global concern.

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