AfDB President says good nutrition is a boost to Economic Growth

18/11/2015
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Speaking at a gathering in Accra on ways in which malnutrition can be eliminated by changing the agricultural and food systems, African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Akinwumi Adesina, said that "boosting nutrition boosts the economy". Malnutrition in Africa, he said, has remained unacceptably high for many decades.

He cited data which shows that 58 million children under the age of 5 years were too short for their age (stunted); about 14 million weigh too little for their height (wasted) while 10 million are overweight. "These are disturbing numbers," he said.

President Adesina was delivering a key note address at a High High-Level Roundtable on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition" organized by Global Panel, an independent group of influential experts with a commitment to tackling global challenges in food and nutrition security.

He suggested that nutrition be seen from the perspective of the economy. "Poorly fed people lead to poorly performing economies. UNICEF has estimated the annual cost of undernutrition in sub-Saharan Africa at $25 billion. Africa and Asia lose 11% of their GNP every year due to poor nutrition. The evidence is clear: boosting nutrition boosts the economy," he said.

Among other suggestions, the AfDB President said that what is needed now is to build greater demand for biofortified crops within national nutrition programs. In addition, he said that we must vigorously pursue large-scale food fortification as a food systems' initiative and leverage agricultural platforms to promote innovations such as micronutrient powders. "This will accelerate the reduction of anemia and other forms of malnutrition among women and children in African agricultural economies," he said.

He also sees a key role for the private sector which should be supported to use African food resources to address the continent's nutritional needs. Equally, the AfDB President emphasized the crucial role that women play in the sector. He said that we must ensure that women farmers benefit significantly from renewed efforts to boost agriculture. They account for a significant share of the farming population but continue to face challenges in terms of access to land rights, labor saving technologies and finance.

"Countries must foster accountability on malnutrition as the world drives the sustainable Development Goals. Let us end the scourge of malnutrition. It is well within our reach to do so, and the evidence is overwhelming that we must act - and act now," President Adesina concluded.

The meeting was attended by John Kufuor, former President of Ghana and Co-Chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

The AfDB President was received by the Vice President of Ghana, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, who outlined Ghana's efforts on economic reforms, especially on fiscal reforms. For his part, the AfDB President assured the Vice President that the Bank stands ready to provide the necessary support to the Government of Ghana in its development efforts.