Climate Change and Agricultural Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa

Climate change is a threat to the agricultural sector and food security of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, changes in climate across the continent are not expected to be consistent as some countries will experience huge declines in rainfall and increases in temperature. This implies that changes in agricultural productivity due to climate change will not be uniform and this is likely to affect trade patterns on the continent. Using a combination of climate change scenarios from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Global Agro-Ecological Zones (FAO-GAEZ), cereals production data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s FAOSTAT, and trade data from the United Nation’s UN Comtrade database, this study explores the impact of climate change on agricultural trade, particularly trade in major cereals, within SSA. Results show that by the 2050s, climate change will lead to most countries experiencing an increase in their need to import cereals. However, some countries such as Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia could have the potential to increase their exports. This suggests that trade flows are likely to be important in strengthening the resilience of African food systems from shocks emanating from climate change. For example, countries in East Africa such as Tanzania could export maize to countries in Southern Africa that could experience maize deficits. Delivering food from surplus to deficit areas is likely to be important in the future, hence the need to improve the movement of food products across borders. Policies to be adopted may include improving trade facilitation, reducing intra-SSA tariffs, avoiding trade policy uncertainty, removing export bans, and encouraging the production of cereal crops where countries have gained a comparative advantage.