The SBM Jollof Index: Hungry for change

27th July 2023

West Africa’s food security problems remain largely unsolved despite several warnings, interventions and experts’ analyses of the problems. As of October 2022, Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria ranked among the countries with the highest food prices in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank Pulse report.

Regrettably, this trend persisted, and as of May 2023, these countries still had soaring food inflation rates with Ghana’s rate reaching a staggering 54.20%, Nigeria’s stood at 24.82%, and Senegal’s rate was 10.40%.

These rising food prices are attributed to various catalysts, including conflict, insecurity, political turmoil, ineffective policy-making, climate change, and the lingering effects of the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

To monitor the changes in food prices in the region and understand their impact, the SBM Jollof Index, which measures the cost of preparing a pot of jollof rice for an average family of five, is used. The index uses data collected from various markets in Nigeria and Ghana on a monthly basis, except for December due to seasonal variations, thus providing valuable insight into food inflation trends in West Africa.

The rising food prices in Ghana and Nigeria are particularly concerning, with various factors contributing to their rise. Ghana’s increasing prices are attributed to high transport fares, seasonal unavailability of staple foods, growing import duties and a depreciating local currency. This puts a significant burden on families, especially those already struggling.

In Nigeria, the situation is further complicated by the removal of petrol subsidies and Naira devaluation, disproportionately affecting lower-income households and worsening food security.

Although the cost of cooking a pot of jollof rice in Nigeria increased by 13.7% in Q2, the Ghanaian version consistently costs more during the period. This reflects different economic situations in these two countries but the same end result: food is getting more expensive for the average West African, and more people are becoming hungry.

The consequences of food insecurity extend beyond economic concerns, as it can lead to socio-economic instability, forced migration, social unrest, and strain on global resources and infrastructure. In some cases, macroeconomic issues have contributed to political instability and popular protests in the region.

To address this looming crisis, urgent action is needed from regional, national and global governments. Potential measures could include promoting sustainable agricultural practices, enhancing transportation infrastructure, revisiting import policies, and strengthening local economies. Failure to act promptly and effectively could lead to severe consequences.

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