Food Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: A 6 Month Outlook

The Horn of Africa comprises the world’s most impoverished and violent of places. In recent years, drought and famine have compounded those issues. Somalia is dealing with the double threat of a drought and crop failure. Factors responsible include climate change, terrorism and weak government institutions. Global food prices inflated because of the war in Ukraine, only worsening the situation. In this disastrous mix, terror groups are thriving off the back of chaos and discord. 

KJ-1: It is highly likely that the war in Ukraine will negatively affect food insecurity in the next 6 months.

  • Ukraine and Russian cumulatively provide nearly 25% of the global grain supply [source].
  • The outbreak of the war in February resulted in a shortage of grain. Food insecurity is particularly felt in the Horn of Africa [source]. 
  • The prevalence of Russian and Ukrainian warships and weapons in the Black Sea, as well as the seizure of key Ukrainian ports, limited the ability of Ukraine to export grain [source].
  • Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement to guarantee the safe passage of grain [source]. 
  • However, this agreement collapsed when Ukraine struck Russian naval assets in Sevastopol with unmanned drones using the grain corridor as cover [source].
  • Russia returned to the agreement periodically under international pressure. Ukraine did not make explicit guarantees to limit strikes against the Crimean coastline [source]. 
  • Despite a reduction of activity, Russian naval assets continue to operate in the Black Sea, potentially threading civilian ships with unintended crossfire [source]. 
  • Russia has targeted 17 civilian and merchant marine vessels since the outbreak of the war. Russian missiles struck the bulk carrier ship Namura Queen in February [source]. 
  • Nevertheless, the first Ukrainian grain shipments to the Horn of Africa since February arrived in August [source]. 
  • Research estimates that over 20 million tons of grain are yet to be exported from Ukraine [source]. 

KJ-2: It is likely that extremist terror groups will exploit food insecure populations in the next 6 months.

  • 7 million people in Somalia severely lack food supplies. Most of the country is subjected to some degree of food related stress [source].
  • Al-Shabaab deliberately halts the delivery of food aid to areas under their control. A majority of rural communities in Somalia are under the direct control of al-Shabaab [source]. 
  • Al-Shabaab limits western food deliveries in order to limit western influence over the populations under their rule [source]. 
  • The group alleges that western food aid provides a cover for espionage and western intelligence agencies [source]. 
  • Food aid delivered under the authority of the federal government weakens al-Shabaab’s political influence in areas under their control [source]. 
  • Food agencies are forced to use armed escorts for food delivery. Accordingly, they operate in a 30 minute window for deliveries. Al-Shabaab uses crudely made IEDs to target western food convoys [source]. 
  • In 2011, al-Shabaab used food insecurity in the Horn of Africa to exert political influence over local populations [source]. 
  • To monopolize the food delivery network, the group set fire to aid delivery vehicles and murdered aid workers [source]. 
  • In 2017, al-Shabaab changed its tactics. It built canals for drought affected villages and set up local committees to handle water supplies for agriculture [source]. 
  • Since 2017, al-Shabaab linked propaganda sources focused heavily on their efforts to ease food shortages [source].
  • Al-Shabaab uses its radio propaganda efforts to appeal to wealthy individuals for donations to address food shortages and fund their aid operations [source]. 

KJ-3: It is likely that China will play an increased role in combating food insecurity in the next 6 months.

  • As part of President Xi’s wider Belt and Road initiative, the Maritime Silk Road established mercantile networks across the Indian Ocean [source]. 
  • In 2017, China began using the Maritime Silk Road network to deliver over 2800 tons of rice to Somalia [source]. 
  • China announced a food aid package in February of this year during a bilateral meeting with Somalia. China is playing an increased role in combating food insecurity in Africa [source]. 
  • Beijing appointed a new special envoy for the Horn of Africa [source]. 
  • China has committed over $37 million worth of food assistance to the World Food Programme [source]. 
  • Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti will receive the bulk of Chinese food assistance [source]. 
  • Chinese food deliveries eventually arrived in July [source]. 
  • China is partially responsible for higher food prices in the Horn of Africa. Export controls on fertilizer and limits on grain shipments compounded the effects of the war in Ukraine on global markets [source]. 
  • China and the United States engage in a tit-for-tat trade of rhetoric over the amount of food assistance provided by each country [source]. 
  • In a reflection of this dispute, the head of the US Agency for International Development Samantha Powers, went to Kenya to show US aid commitments to the Horn of Africa [source].

Intelligence Cut-Off Date: November 25, 2022

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