In a virtual media briefing with African journalists on 28 November, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country will send ships ... with wheat at zero cost to recipient African states to alleviate the acute food crisis. Is this an effort by Kyiv to encourage more support against Russia?
David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group, made it clear on 18 May: “Rising food prices are having a devastating impact on the poorest and most vulnerable populations.” According to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the continent is the most impacted, as 29 of its countries will face a “serious food crisis” in the coming months. As per the findings of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food prices in Africa have increased by 39% compared to the average over the last five years.
In response to this crisis, the World Bank is working with its client countries to develop new projects, funded to the tune of $12bn, which will be launched over the next 15 months. The majority of these resources will be allocated to Africa and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent to countries in Eastern Europe, and Central and South Asia. The remaining $18.7bn will be used to finance existing projects directly related to food and nutrition security issues. The Bank’s response will mobilise all of its financing instruments and be accompanied by analytical work.
“To inform and stabilise markets, it is essential that countries now make clear what future increases in production will be in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Malpass, stressing that governments will need to “make concerted efforts to increase energy and fertiliser supplies, help farmers intensify planting and yields, and end measures that block exports and imports.”
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To do this, the financial institution has identified four priorities. First, the Bank wants to help local production by removing barriers so that it can trade in inputs, promote more efficient use of fertilisers and redirect public spending to support farmers. At the same time, the aim will be to facilitate increased trade through international consensus (with the G7, G20 and others).
In conjunction with this, the international organisation will ensure that vulnerable households are supported by developing targeted social protection programmes and replenishing emergency funding mechanisms. Finally, investments will be used to strengthen food systems in order to make them more resilient in the face of increasing risks (conflict, climate change, pest outbreaks, disease), trade disruptions and economic shocks, thus “balancing immediate needs with long-term investments”.
During the 2007-2008 food price crisis, the World Bank adopted a temporary intervention programme (GFRP) which enabled funds to be channelled to 49 countries to finance more than 100 projects. Building on this experience, the Bretton Woods institution subsequently developed new instruments to address similar crises, including the Crisis Response Window (CRW). In parallel, the World Bank established the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP), whose financial intermediation fund aims to improve food security in low-income countries.
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