Joint RES-AFR Seminar: Supporting Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa amid the COVID-19 Pandemic and Climate Change


Sub-Saharan Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change, with a marked increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters threatening food security in the region due to the heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture, and weak infrastructure and institutions.
These challenges are compounded by the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has aggravated food chain disruptions, broadly raised food prices, eroded real incomes, and increased the number of undernourished in the region to reach 264 million in 2020.
This discussion comes at a critical time when the IMF is looking to identify viable options to support more vulnerable member countries in their pandemic recovery and achieve resilient and sustainable growth, including through voluntary channeling of some of the SDRs from countries with strong external positions to those most in need.

Opening Remarks:

Antionette M. Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director, IMF


Antionette M. Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director, IMF (Moderator)

David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme

Tahir Hamid Nguilin, Minister of Finance and Budget, Chad

Musa Kpaka, Chief Technical Advisor in the Office of the President, Sierra Leone

Seminar Report

In 2020, the number of undernourished people reached 264 million in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the food security challenges in a region that was already highly vulnerable to climate change. Panelists discussed the evolving situation and possible solutions.

Key Points:

  • The deteriorating food security situation. Beasley cited data from the World Food Programme (WPF) that indicate a significant spike in hunger and widespread famine since the start of the pandemic, thereby intensifying the risks of conflict and mass migration. Nguilin stated that climate change was having a material effect on livelihoods in the Sahel region, particularly in the Lake Chad area where drought was driving tensions and forced displacements.
  • Supply chain disruptions: Kpaka noted that the situation in developing countries was aggravated by the lack of self-sufficiency in food supplies and that intra-African trade could play an important role in addressing this. Nguilin added that the reduction on rain-fed agriculture warrants a scale up in irrigation and a solution to rising input costs.
  • Policy Responses. Panelists noted that swift support from the international community was helpful in rolling out food distribution and social cash transfer programs. However, the challenges of youth unemployment, water resource management and fragility require urgent attention. Beasley highlighted the WFP’s advocacy for more strategic interventions that could yield co-benefits. For instance, by integrating food security initiatives into school feeding programs, communities could realize positive educational outcomes while reducing migration, teen pregnancies and recruitment by extreme groups. Sayeh noted that the IMF was building partnerships and deepening its engagement on climate change and food security by bringing in macroeconomic perspectives.


Climate change is impacting all our industries, particularly those in the rural areas. The 50 million people living in the Lake Chad region are facing significant challenges.Tahir Hamid Nguilin

We have been saying that it is not about foreign aid but about strategic foreign aid. That is the key. We would like to have the most strategic programs that can help governments.” David Beasley

Agriculture and farming practices can be a driver for climate change but also a solution. We think irrigation can be expensive, but water management can be a way to go around this.Musa Kpaka

The international community can play its part. At the IMF we have increased our annual lending, thereby helping countries reduce their financing gaps. The recent SDR allocation is supplementing foreign reserves, and IMF is encouraging some countries to voluntarily transfer SDRs to countries with the most needs.Antoinette Sayeh

Contributor: Chola Milambo, IMF, Secretary’s Department