African economies dry up with se­vere drought

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY IOAN­NIS GATSIOUNIS

KAM­PALA, UGANDA | The worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years is cre­at­ing a vast hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and throw­ing the economies of the re­gion into chaos.

“Food prices have gone up [. . .] and peo­ple’s as­sets, pri­mar­ily live­stock, have gone down,” said Alun McDon­ald, a spokesman for the in­ter­na­tional char­ity Ox­fam.

The cri­sis is worst in Ethiopia, Kenya and So­ma­lia, the lat­ter be­ing the hard­est-hit coun­try in a drought af­fect­ing more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple.

The area where the three coun­tries meet has had lit­tle to no rain­fall in more than two years, and as much as 85 per­cent of each coun­try’s work­force re­lies on agri­cul­ture for their liveli­hood. The U.N. re­ported in Jan­uary that all crops in small farm­ing ar­eas in the re­gion had failed.

The price of corn in Kenya is up as much as 160 per­cent, while milk costs three times more than when the drought be­gan three years ago. Sorghum in So­ma­lia has sky­rock­eted 240 per­cent, de­priv­ing cat­tle and goat herders of a source of feed for their live­stock.

The an­i­mals are of­ten ema­ci­ated, and their value has plum­meted as much as 50 per­cent. The roads that mil­lions of So­ma­lis travel on their way to refugee camps in Kenya are lit­tered with the skele­tal re­mains of cows and camels.

The short­age of live­stock is caus­ing a rip­pling ef­fect by crip­pling the whole­sale mar­ket in the cities.

“Lots of pas­toral­ists [herders] rely on trad­ing an­i­mals for food rather than pay­ing in cash, but the terms of trade have de­creased sig­nif­i­cantly,” said Mr. McDon­ald, who is work­ing in the drought-hit ar­eas of north­east­ern Kenya.

Be­fore the drought, a herder would get about 100 pounds of corn for one goat. Now, he is get­ting about half that amount. Camels in some ru­ral parts of Kenya also are worth about half of their value, Mr. McDon­ald said.

The drought also is wreck­ing Kenya’s tea and cof­fee busi­nesses. The Tea Board of Kenya ex­pects a 12 per­cent fall in prices, while cof­fee grow­ers who sup­ply com­pa­nies such as Star­bucks fear a de­cline in ex­ports of 27 per­cent. Kenya re­lies on agri­cul­ture for about 25 per­cent of its $32 bil­lion econ­omy.

Prices for food and non­al­co­holic drinks are up 22.5 per­cent in Kenya, and trans­porta­tion costs have soared by 22.7 per­cent.

In Ethiopia, the an­nual in­fla­tion rate hit 38 per­cent in June, threat­en­ing an econ­omy that de­pends on agri­cul­ture for 43 per­cent of its $30 bil­lion gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

So­ma­lia has been the most dev­as­tated by the drought, with tens of thou­sands mak­ing a des­per­ate month­long march to an over­crowded refugee camp in Kenya.

The coun­try also is be­set by al-Shabab, an Is­lamist ter­ror­ist gang that un­til re­cently has re­fused to al­low for­eign aid work­ers into the ar­eas it con­trols. So­ma­lia has lacked a func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment for about 20 years.

“I be­lieve So­ma­lia rep­re­sents the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian disas­ter in the world,” said An­to­nio Gut­ter­res, di­rec­tor of the U.N. refugee agency, af­ter re­turn­ing from the re­gion over the July 16-17 week­end.

Mark Bow­den, the top U.N. of­fi­cial in charge of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in So­ma­lia, said Tues­day that some south­ern parts of the coun­try are suf­fer­ing from famine, the Associated Press re­ported.

Famine is of­fi­cially de­fined as when two adults or four chil­dren per 10,000 peo­ple die of hunger each day and a third of chil­dren are acutely mal­nour­ished.

Mr. Bow­den said that, in some ar­eas of So­ma­lia, six peo­ple a day are dy­ing and more than half of the chil­dren are acutely mal­nour­ished, the AP re­ported.

The eco­nomic up­heaval in Ethiopia, Kenya and So­ma­lia is ex­pected to cause fi­nan­cial dis­rup­tion as far away as Uganda, which is feel­ing the lack of rain.

Uganda’s Fi­nance Min­istry last month pre­dicted an an­nual growth rate of 6.3 per­cent, slightly lower than its pre­vi­ous fore­cast of 6.4. But the min­istry ex­pects a 15.8 per­cent de­cline in cash crops such as cof­fee, cot­ton and sugar cane.

Jare Osoro, a se­nior re­search econ­o­mist at the East African De­vel­op­ment Bank in Kam­pala, said the fate of the live­stock herders is linked to the in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries in other parts of Africa.

“Be­cause so much of their live­stock has been dec­i­mated, the liveli­hoods of the whole­salers they sell to are be­ing af­fected,” he said.

Mr. Osoro also wor­ried about in­fla­tionar y pres­sures on Uganda be­cause of an in­creased de­mand for Ugan­dan goods from coun­tries hit hard­est by the drought.


DES­PER­ATE: Mem­bers of Rage Mo­hamed’s fam­ily are over­taken by a dust storm as they try to build a makeshift shel­ter on the out­skirts of the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya this month. It took the 15-mem­ber fam­ily five days to walk to the camp from their drought-stricken home in So­ma­lia.

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