RHI Webinar: Sub-Saharan Africa’s Growing Dependence on Food Imports: A Long-run Perspective

Tanik Joshipura from Wageningen University will give an online seminar on February 11, 2021. To attend, please register via email

Organised by Economic and Environmental History

Thu 11 February 2021 11:15 to 12:30


Over the past century, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has become increasingly dependent on imports to meet domestic food demand. This has salient implications for the region’s food security and economic development. While existing literature provides largely postcolonial explanations for the phenomenon, this paper argues that SSA’s transition towards food import-dependence has much deeper historical roots. Through a disaggregated analysis of the Food Balance Sheets (1961-2017) data across countries and food types, I appraise the current set of explanations from relevant literature. Analyzing SSA's food import-dependence from a longer run perspective yields new insights into SSA’s integration into the global food market, its demographic geography and its high internal trade costs. Results indicate that postcolonial explanations such as food aid, agricultural policy and urbanization affected food import-dependence depending on their interaction with much deeper historical/biogeographic factors. Studying the transition at the level of these interactions is necessary to provide for more informed research policy on the subject.