African leaders make economic case for increased nutrition investments

AfDB President hosts high-level event with new economic data showing increased nutrition investment can result in $83 billion in GDP growth

24/05/2016
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Key African leaders at the African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings, in partnership with the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, outlined a vision for a new high-level effort and shared new data strengthening the economic case for investment in nutrition across Africa.

On the opening day of the AfDB Annual Meeting in Lusaka, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina hosted a discussion among influential leaders, philanthropists, and businesses on how Africa can achieve nutrition security through increased investments and public-private partnerships.

"To empower people out of poverty, we must first invest in the gray matter infrastructure that will truly fuel this progress - the minds of our children. Nutrition is not just a health and social development issue, nutrition is an investment that shapes economic growth for all African nations," said Adesina. "When the growth of our children is stunted today - the growth of our economies will be stunted tomorrow. But when Africa's children are nourished and can grow, learn, and earn to their full potential, we will be able to unleash the potential of the entire continent."

New analysis released Monday from the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition shows increased investments to meet the World Health Assembly target of reducing stunting by 40 percent by 2025 could add US $83 billion in additional GDP growth in just 15 Sub-Saharan African countries. In Nigeria alone, this includes US $29 billion in national income, or a 17 to 1 benefit cost ratio for additional investments. The full analysis from the Global Panel can be found here.

A new Africa-specific investment framework by the World Bank and Results for Development showing the costs to achieve the WHA stunting, wasting, anemia and breastfeeding targets was also unveiled. Achieving these four global nutrition targets in sub-Saharan Africa would require an increased investment of approximately US $2.7 billion/year for 10 years. Meeting the targets would require increased investment of approximately US $1.8 billion/year from donors and US $750 million/year from African governments over the next decade.

The framework identifies that significant progress can be made by starting with investment in a subset of high-priority, most cost-effective interventions, including Vitamin A supplementation, supportive breastfeeding policies, and food fortification. This subset package of priority interventions can be implemented across Sub-Saharan Africa for an increased annual investment of approximately US $700 million/year over the next 10 years. This would require an increase in spending of approximately US $203 million/year from national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa and additional US $400 million/year from donors. The full analysis from the World Bank and Results for Development can be found here.

Highlighting the critical need for political leadership to take action and invest in these opportunities, Adesina and John Kufuor, former President of Ghana and co-chair of the Global Panel, outlined intent to create the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN), which aims to bring together Heads of State, Finance Ministers, and leaders from key sectors across the continent to champion and increased investment in nutrition.

"The African Leaders for Nutrition will be an opportunity for Heads of State and ministers to use their voices to commit, their actions to invest, and their positions to truly lead," said Kufuor. "Not only is it about health, but it is also about economics. The potential gains are significant and lasting. That's why we're calling on leaders across Africa to join us in elevating the issue of nutrition on the continent and to make investment a priority."

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, praised the effort while highlighting the role agriculture can play in defeating malnutrition.

"I am delighted to see this effort take shape for greater leadership, partnership, and investment in nutrition security," said Annan. "Malnutrition remains a major barrier to development in many African nations, but we have global consensus on what targets we need to reach, along with a roadmap for action. One of the most critical steps we can take to achieving nutrition security is to transform the continent's agricultural sector, because it's not just about the amount of food that we grow, it's also about the type of food that we eat. We need agriculture to be nutrition-smart, and I am look forward to opportunities for collaboration with the African Leaders for Nutrition on creating agriculture and food production systems that are diverse, efficient and resilient in order to meet the nutritional needs of every community and nation."

The AfDB's event in Lusaka also featured remarks from nutrition champions Jamie Cooper, Chair and President, Big Win Philanthropy and a representative from the Dangote Foundation, on the importance of public private partnerships.

In a video message played during the event, Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, welcomed the formation of the ALN and its potential impact through increased nutrition investments.

"With African countries leading the way, we can accelerate progress against malnutrition and unlock the potential of children everywhere. We have a set of cost effective interventions that, if scaled up globally, would save 2.2 million lives and reduce the number of stunted children by 50 million in the next ten years. What we need now is broad commitment from the highest levels, and African Leaders for Nutrition can play a critical role in making nutrition a national priority."

The May 23 event in Lusaka builds on the Invest in Nutrition event in which Gates joined President Adesina and global development leaders to launch the first-ever investment framework for nutrition and lay out research from a new groundbreaking analysis that gives policymakers and advocates a roadmap for how the world can accelerate progress against malnutrition. The event was held in Washington, DC during the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings in April.

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About the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN)

The African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) seeks to elevate the issue of nutrition on the continent and encourage government ministers, philanthropists and businesses to champion and increase investment in nutrition. Created by Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB, and John Kufuor, Former President of Ghana and Global Panel Co-Chair, the ALN is envisioned to be an African-led effort of current and former Heads of state, Finance Ministers and other leaders that aims to catalyze and sustain political will and leadership on nutrition investment and the economic case for nutrition investment. For more information about the African Leaders for Nutrition, visit glopan.org/african-leaders-nutrition.