By investing in food markets, Africa has what it takes to win the war against stunting and improve nutrition across the continent. This is according to the African Development Bank (AfDB) Vice President for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke.
Blanke made this disclosure recently at a panel discussion of the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), themed “Advancing Africa’s development through technology, innovation and people.”
The session, organised by the Global Panel on Agriculture & Food Systems for Nutrition (GPAN) & the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN), was titled “Ending Malnutrition in Africa: Towards Nutrition for Growth 2020 & Beyond.”
While addressing the dire need for Africa to up its game in the food markets, Blanke said, “there is a business case for governments to invest in grey matter, or brainpower, and this requires much more nutritious diets”
Blanke further reiterated the Bank’s commitment towards ameliorating nutrition in Africa, noting that with support from institutions like the AfDB, the results would be a win-win situation for all. “What a huge potential the food markets represent. “Feed Africa,” which is one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities, has nutrition at its core,” she added.
Led by its President
, the AfDB senior management team attended this year’s TICAD in Yokohama, Japan, which focused on Africa’s economic transformation and the business environment through partnerships and increased cooperation with Japan.
Despite possessing 60 percent of the world’s arable land, African countries import nearly $50 billion in food annually. However, changes in population and growing middle class are extraordinary opportunities for agribusiness and consumer markets.
Against this backdrop, the AfDB urged potential investors to engage and explore Africa’s food markets, with most people in Africa getting their food from local markets, business opportunities for healthy foods abound everywhere in the food system.
On her part, Ms Toshiko Abe, of Japan’s ministry of finance, in a plenary on empowering women and girls, said “It is essential that women are empowered to become a vehicle for transforming society,” . Higlighting how it directly benefits Africa’s development agenda, she stated that technology, access to finance, education and digital technology can help women leapfrog many hurdles.
Upholding Abe’s thought, Blanke said women in agriculture were an overlooked stakeholder group. According to her,“We can leverage more for women,” as a large part of African farmers constitute women.”
The African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative known as AFAWA, seeks to support women entrepreneurs in Africa. Through AFAWA the AfDB aims to raise at least $300 million for a guarantee facility that will spur lending of ten times at much (around $3 billion) to African women entrepreneurs.
Speaking also at the event, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Lawrence Haddad divulged that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in particular play a predominant role in the food supply chains in Africa, but their growth has been slow, while adding that“the biggest constraint to their scaling up is lack of access to finance.”
Other side events such as a session on Investing in Human Capital Development and one on Rural Transformation and Sustainable Agriculture in the Digital Age, jointly organized by the Bank and the World Food Programme, spoke to policy makers about the importance of the private sector and an enabling environment in fighting malnutrition.