Introducing a new force in the fight against malnutrition


In Africa today, the growth and development of 58 million children under age five is stunted by malnutrition. We cannot continue to grow as nations if we are not fully supporting the growth and development of the children that are the future of the continent.

We must increase investments in nutrition. An investment in nutrition is an investment in economic growth and progress. 

The Global Nutrition Report estimates that every $1 spent on nutrition yields an average of $16 in benefits. This is because children who are well-nourished are healthier and able to learn more in school and earn more as adults, allowing them to raise healthy, well-nourished children of their own. This creates a ripple effect that extends across families, communities and countries. New data shared during an event on Achieving Nutrition Security, held during the African Development Bank’s annual meeting, shows that malnutrition costs economies in sub-Saharan Africa between three and 16 per cent of GDP annually. Yet the same data also shows that if we increased investments in nutrition in just 15 of Africa’s countries, we could add more than $83 billion to national incomes. Imagine what that could do. 

Already, Africa is making strides toward improving nutrition: the African Union has committed to the Malabo Declaration, and nearly 40 African countries, including Ghana, have joined the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. But in order to end malnutrition and not just reduce it, solutions must come from across governments, sectors, and partnerships. We need greater political leadership, collaboration and accountability.

To stop malnutrition from holding us back, we must have leaders committed to taking this issue forward.

Last November, during a meeting of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition held in Accra, Dr Akin Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, and I discussed opportunities to strengthen African leadership on nutrition. What started from this conversation is today becoming a reality that has the potential to catalyse progress across the continent.  

I have just returned from a side-event of the annual AfDB meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, where the case of nutrition for development was powerfully presented. President Adesine and I also tabled our initiative. I am pleased to say the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) forum will be formally launched at the next AU Summit and will be an African-led effort, made up of individuals such as myself who will drive increased visibility and prioritisation of nutrition. We will encourage smart, effective policy and financial actions. We will hold one another accountable, tracking our progress and identifying examples of success to share. And together, we will help Africa reach its highest potential. 

Today, we have an opportunity to rethink how we look at nutrition. This is not just a health and social development issue. It is an investment that shapes opportunity for economic growth. 

I call on Heads of State across the continent to join us and do their part by lending not just their voice, but their commitment and energy to improving nutrition. History shows us that commitment alone is not enough; we need to all work together to ensure these high-level commitments turn into significant and dedicated resources for nutrition. Because when Africa’s children are nourished and can grow to their full potential, learn to their full potential, and earn to their full potential, we will be able to unleash the potential of the entire continent. 

By John Kufuor

H.E. John Kufuor is a former president of Ghana (2001-2009), Chairperson of the African Union (2007-2008) and founder of the John A. Kufuor Foundation. He currently serves as the co-Chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

Article originally published on Graphic and All africa