Good nutrition is the cornerstone of good human and economic development. It is regarded as an important category under the African Development Bank’s “Feed Africa” and “Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa” agendas, as specified in High 5s.

Improving nutrition contributes to poverty reduction, improved health and a decrease in mortality rates especially amongst the most vulnerable, such as women and children. The Bank envisages investing more in undernutrition through nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific activities across all of its sectors through partnerships and direct investments.

“The African Leaders must commit to Zero Hunger and ensure nutritional security for their population. This can be achieved only by political will and determination.”

African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina commits to developing Africa’s “gray matter infrastructure”.

Malnutrition has two dimensions namely undernutrition and overweight/obesity. Undernutrition is further categorized as being underweight, wasting or stunting. Children who are undernourished in the first 1,000 days of their lives – that is from the start of the pregnancy to age two – are exposed to chronic health issues and impaired cognitive development. Unlike being underweight and wasting, the effects of stunting are irreversible and include diminished learning potential, poor scholastic success and ultimately reduced adult labour capacity and productivity.

In Africa, the levels of malnutrition are unacceptably high, with 58 million or 36% of children under the age of five chronically undernourished, and 13 million or 8.5% of children acutely undernourished. Chronic malnutrition was identified as the underlying cause of approximately half of the child deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015.

The economic impact of malnutrition on the African continent is estimated to be as high as US $25 billion per year, with countries losing between 3% and 16% of their GDP annually. These costs are attributed to infant mortality rates, medical costs, impaired cognitive development and physical under-development caused by malnutrition. It will be hugely beneficial for Africa to invest in combatting undernutrition considering that for every dollar invested, the return on investment is $16. The threat of food insecurity on the African continent generates an opportunity to not only focus on the quantity of food produced, but also on the fortification of agriculture yields and food supply to ensure those foods are also nutritious.

In line with President Adesina’s vision to lead Africa into nutritional prosperity, the Bank has already made strides in promoting better nutrition on the continent. The President launched the African Leaders on Nutrition (ALN) on May 23, 2016. Joined by former Ghanaian President John Kufour and Kofi Annan, President Adesina called on all African leaders and Ministers of Finance to declare a hunger-free Africa. The Bank has also formed exciting partnerships with like-minded institutions, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Dangote Foundation and Big Win Philanthropy, The Global Panel and The Scale-Up Nutrition Network, in support of the Africa Nutrition agenda. The goal: to provide analytical evidence and research on improving nutrition standards across the continent.

The Bank has also contributed to establishing effective mechanisms to promote better nutrition in Madagascar through increased access to fortified foods, especially in the southern part of the country. In Zambia, the Bank has invested US $30 million through the Skills Development and Entrepreneurship Project: Supporting Women and Youth. The project will support the development of the cassava value chain with a focus on the commercialization of cassava products through industrial clusters equipping 17,000 cassava farmers associations. This initiative will not only ensure high yields, but will also contribute to the construction of 15 cassava bulking centres, five of which will be equipped for the piloting of the production of fortified “garri” by a cooperative of 500 women.

The Bank will also be rolling-out an intensive knowledge-building program to empower staff to promote the Better Nutrition Agenda in Africa. It will also be developing innovative programs together with the private sector to engage market-based solutions in promoting better nutrition in Africa.

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