South Africa Gains Good Ground Despite Global Food Security Taking Largest Knock in Half a Decade

  • South Africa climbs to position 44 out of 113 in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Global Food Security Index (GFSI). Moving up three places from last year’s index.
  • More than 60% of countries saw their score deteriorate in the past year.
  • Worsening political instability, rising migration and declining public-sector investment, contributing factors to the downturn.

Johannesburg, 16 October 2017.  The GFSI, sponsored by DuPont, is an annual benchmarking index that provides a common framework for understanding the root causes of global food insecurity by examining the dynamics of food systems around the world. This framework creates a unique country-level food security measurement tool that addresses the issues of affordability, availability, quality & safety in 113 countries. This year also marks the inception of the index’s Natural Resources & Resilience adjustment factor, which demonstrates the impact of climate-related and natural resource risks on overall food security.

Downward Drop in Global Performance

For the first time in five years, the index has recorded a drop in global food security after four years of progressive gains. This downturn reflects the impact of decreasing public sector investments, worsening global political instability, increased human migration and the escalation of climate change consequences on both poor and rich states alike.

South Africa Steps Up

South Africa is one of the few countries that achieved positive traction in the past year. Despite weathering the worst drought in two decades, South Africa’s agriculture sector has risen to the challenge by bolstering food resources and safety net programmes.

Overall South Africa placed 1st in Africa and 44th globally. In terms of its overall GFSI score when adjusted by the Natural Resources & Resilience, it placed 46th out of 113 counties.

South Africa received strong scores in five indicators, achieving the maximum of 100 points for the country’s nutritional standards (which includes national nutrition plans, dietary guidelines and nutritional monitoring) and the presence of food ‘safety net’ programmes (public initiatives that protect the poor from food-related shocks). However, a key challenge still remains its stagnating GDP growth rate, which has only recently started to show some signs of recovery.

“South Africa has demonstrated the important strides that can be achieved when food security is made a priority by government. With worsening political instability, rising migration and declining public-sector investment evident across the globe. The world will be looking to South Africa to lead the discourse on how we can effectivity tackle the crippling issue of food insecurity in Africa," said Prabdeep Bajwa, Regional Director, DuPont’s agricultural business in Africa Middle East. 

Regional Perspective

At a global and regional level, the Middle East & Africa has suffered the greatest losses.  Drought has wreaked havoc across most of in Sub-Saharan Africa, putting strain on food safety nets and international food aid programmes. Sub-Saharan countries, which are the most food insecure countries globally, have been hit by the impacts of extreme weather which has increased populations’ dependency on already overburdened multilateral and NGO-run food safety net programmes.

Across East Africa, the region which typically receives rainfall twice a year, climate change related impacts have left countries reeling from the worst drought in a century. Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, which boast rich agricultural lands are worst affected. This has caused food prices to skyrocket to record levels, doubling the price of staple cereals in some areas, and exacerbating the acute food insecurity.

“Governments, civil society and the private sector must work together and invest in disaster risk reduction strategies.  This is important to run in parallel with longer-term structural and productivity enhancement programs that ensure that future food supplies are sufficient to meet the needs of Africa’s growing population,” concludes Bajwa.

About The Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) is the research arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist. As the world’s leading provider of country intelligence, it helps governments, institutions and businesses by providing timely, reliable and impartial analysis of economic and development strategies. Through its public policy practice, The EIU provides evidence-based research for policymakers and stakeholders seeking measurable outcomes, in fields ranging from gender and finance to energy and security. It conducts research through interviews, regulatory analysis, quantitative modelling and forecasting, and displays the results via interactive data visualisation tools. Through a global network of more than 750 analysts and contributors, The EIU continuously assesses and forecasts political, economic and business conditions in more than 200 countries. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at

About the GFSI

The DuPont-sponsored GFSI was jointly released by the integrated science company and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of The Economist Group.The annual Global Food Security Index evaluates the affordability, availability, and quality and safety of food and food systems across 113 countries, and applies an adjustment factor to the resulting food security scores to take into account climate-related and natural resource risks. The index is a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model, constructed from 35 unique indicators, that measures these drivers across both developing and developed countries. Food security is defined as the state in which people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for a healthy and active life, based on the definition established at the 1996 World Food Summit.

About DowDuPont Agriculture Division

DowDuPont Agriculture, a business division of DowDuPont (NYSE: DWDP), combines the strengths of DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection and Dow AgroSciences. Together, the Agriculture division provides growers around the world with the most complete portfolio in the industry, developed through a robust research pipeline across germplasm, biotech traits and crop protection. DowDuPont Agriculture is committed to delivering innovation, helping growers increase productivity and ensuring food security for a growing global population. DowDuPont intends to separate the Agriculture division into an independent, publicly traded company. More information can be found at