The Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok has revealed plans of providing assistance to the poor by subsidizing food, drugs, medical services and education.
The shortage of bread, fuel and medicine coupled with inflation sparked protests which led to the toppling of long-time ruler, Omar al-Bashir in April. Since then, the economic situation of the country has remained in turmoil, as politicians negotiated a three-year power-sharing deal between the military and civilians
In September, Hamdok’s government announced a nine-month economic rescue plan aimed at curbing rampant inflation while ensuring supplies of basic goods. The plan is expected to keep bread and petroleum subsidies in place until at least June 2020.
More so, the country needs $8 billion in foreign aid over the next two years to cover its import bill to help rebuild its economy. The government has been making efforts to remove Sudan from the U.S. sponsors of terrorism list in order to access investment and foreign aids from the IMF and World Bank.
Sudan has experienced protracted social conflict, civil war, and the loss of three-quarters of its oil production due to the secession of South Sudan. The oil sector had driven much of Sudan’s GDP growth since 1999.
The country has struggled to stabilize its economy and make up for the loss of foreign exchange earnings. Also, the interruption of oil production in South Sudan in 2012 for over a year and the consequent loss of oil transit fees further exacerbated the fragile state of Sudan’s economy.
Ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Darfur, and Blue Nile state, lack of basic infrastructure in large areas, and reliance by much of the population on subsistence agriculture keep close to half of the population at or below the poverty line.
As a country recovering from economic and political crises, this initiative by the government to subsidize food and other basic necessities is a step forward. It is also a move that other African countries can take a cue from when strategizing on post-conflict reforms.
Governments should create sustainable development goals that will help alleviate hunger in the country. For example, India’s recent National food Security Act is expected to help 800 million people access publicly financed or subsidized food. With the help of its partners, the government will distribute coarse grains, such as millet, sorghum and maize, in addition to the basic staples, rice and wheat.
It is also estimated that over 31 million Indian farmers grow these crops, and the inclusion of these crops in the law is likely to stimulate production, contributing both to climate adaptation and food security. Not to mention an increase in the income of farmers once the government buys their crops.
Also, in Nigeria, 14.5 million people are smallholder farmers. This means that the income of over 14 million people will take a drastic hit when climate disasters strike. In light of this, the Nigerian government has pledged to help protect these farmers against extreme weather events. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center are now working with Nigeria to formulate a four-year roadmap providing guidance for reaching the goal of nationwide coverage.
Countries and investors need to recognize the power of financing agricultural research and development, by working with farmers to find a long-term solution. Also, a decision the subsidize food products is sure to go a long way in ending hunger.
By Faith Ikade.