ADFSN 2016: Better diets for a better future in Africa



(27 October 2016) Accra, Ghana – During the commemoration of the seventh annual Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS) today, African leaders called for increased investment in food systems in Africa to improve child nutrition, particularly in light of the findings from a recent Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition report “Food systems and diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st century.”

This year’s ADFNS theme, Investing in Food Systems for Improving Child Nutrition: Key to Africa’s Renaissance, comes at a time when emerging nutrition trends in Africa forecast serious challenges related to diet quality, health outcomes and economic stability.

The Global Panel report states that malnutrition is increasing across the continent, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, the number of stunted children under five is rising by 500,000 every year and chronic malnutrition underpinned the cause of approximately half of child deaths in 2015. If business continues as usual, there will be 216 million undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

At the same time, rates of overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke) are increasing rapidly in all countries, but particularly in low- and middle-income countries and urbanising areas. Among men in sub-Saharan Africa, the growth rate of overweight and obesity now exceeds that of underweight. By 2030, sub-Saharan Africa’s obesity rate is expected to reach 17.5 percent, or double that of 2005. In Nigeria, the number of adults with diabetes is estimated to double to 6.1 million by 2030. In Ethiopia, diabetes is likely to increase from 1.4 million in 2011 to 2.7 million by 2030.

“Nutrition is not about just feeding people, it is about powering life and the growth of individuals, communities and nations,” said H.E. John Kufuor, former president of Ghana and Global Panel co-chair. “If we do not reshape food systems to prioritise nutrition, we are missing an opportunity to create a stronger, healthier and more prosperous future.”

The Global Panel report and accompanying paper, Better diets for a better future in Africa, show that investing in nutrition, especially for mothers, infants and children, will lead to amplified gains. Good nutrition in infants and children supports cognitive development, equipping them to seize economic opportunities in the labour market in the future. “Nutrition fuels grey matter infrastructure, the minds of the next generation that will drive progress and innovation. If we do not act, we will fail to unleash the full potential of millions of people around the world,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Global Panel member.

Across the continent, the economic impact of malnutrition is estimated to be as high as US $25 billion per year, with countries losing between 3 and 16 percent of their annual GDP. For an illustrative set of 15 African countries, meeting the 2025 World Health Assembly target for stunting will add US $83 billion dollars to national incomes. Dr. Adesina added, “Nutrition is not just a health and social development issue, but an investment that can spur economic growth.”

Africa is already moving forward in putting food quality at the heart of its policies. The new African Leaders for Nutrition initiative is an example of this. But, the report shows that to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on sustainable food consumption and ending hunger, policymakers will need to take concerted and coordinated steps to go beyond agriculture, to encompass trade, the environment, and health. And they need to harness the power of the private sector and empower consumers to demand better diets. 

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