Regionalism, Food Security and Economic Development
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It is remarkable that Africa, with enormous resource endowments and with more than 70 percent of the population engaged in agriculture, cannot feed itself. This background paper offers a critical assessment of the potential of regional trade and integration in addressing the enduring challenge of food insecurity in Africa. Drawing on the literature, the paper argues that regionalism offers enormous opportunities and synergies for enhancing economic growth, food supply, and stability of food prices that cannot be easily addressed by individual countries when they operate in isolation from each other. To demonstrate the potential of regional integration for achieving food security in Africa, this paper starts by providing a conceptual framework that outlines the dimensions that link regional cooperation and food security. An overview of the key policy initiatives that are currently underway at enhancing integration at the continental level and in various regional blocs follows this introduction. The paper then progresses to a review of the extent of economic integration among African countries, with particular focus on the agriculture and food trade. It then presents a discussion on potential areas of integration followed by an examination of capacity issues that need policy attention in order to improve the potential of continental and regional integration in improving national and household food security among African countries.