Africa’s agri-food systems must be transformed to make healthy diets more affordable for Africans. That is the central message of a new report launched today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC).
According to the latest Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, Africans face some of the highest food costs when compared to other regions of a similar level of development. Nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables and animal proteins, are relatively expensive when compared to staples such as cereals and starchy roots, and, the report argues, some of the reasons for this are systemic.
Evidence presented in the report shows that nearly three-quarters of the African population cannot afford a healthy diet of fruits, vegetable and animal proteins, and more than half cannot afford a nutrient-adequate diet, which provides a mix of carbohydrates, protein, fats, and essential vitamins and minerals to maintain basic health. Even an energy-sufficient diet, which supplies a bare minimum of energy and little else, is out of reach for over 10 percent of the continent’s population.
“The picture that emerges is that the agri-food systems in Africa do not provide food at a cost that makes healthy diets affordable to the majority of the population, and this is reflected in the high disease burden associated with maternal and child malnutrition, high body-mass, micronutrient deficiencies and dietary risk factors,” FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel said with William Lugemwa UNECA’s Director of the Private Sector Development and Finance Division, and Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment in the report’s joint foreword.
“A common vision, strong political leadership and effective cross-sectoral collaboration, including the private sector, are essential to agree on trade-offs and identify and implement sustainable solutions to transform agri-food systems for healthy, affordable diets,” they said.
‘Unacceptably slow’ progress on ending malnutrition
Overall progress in meeting global nutrition targets remains unacceptably slow in Africa, according to the report. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the number of stunted children continues to rise. Although the prevalence of stunting is declining, it is falling only very slowly and despite progress, nearly a third of the children in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted.
Only three countries, Eswatini, Kenya and Sao Tome and Principe, are on course to meet four of the five World Health Assembly nutrition targets. Three other countries, Ghana, Lesotho and Rwanda, are on track to meet three of the targets.
The report also states that current food consumption patterns in Africa impose high health and environmental costs which are not reflected in food prices. Including these costs would add US$0.35 to each dollar spent on food in sub-Saharan Africa.
Rebalancing diets to include more plant-based foods would reduce the cost of diets and lower health and environmental costs. Compared to current average diets, diets that are more plant-based would reduce the full cost of diets, including health and environmental costs, by 11-21 percent in low-income countries.
Transforming agri-food systems for affordable, healthy diets
The findings highlight the importance of prioritizing the transformation of agri-food systems to ensure access to affordable and healthy diets for all, produced in a sustainable manner. Smart policies and interventions throughout agri-food systems are needed to raise yields, lower costs, promote nutritious foods, and reduce health and environmental costs.
Within the African context, essential interventions include increased investment in research and extension to improve yields, especially of nutritious foods, and greater efforts to adopt modern farming technologies. Production must be intensified in a sustainable manner, the report argues, along with interventions to improve land governance, empower women farmers, reduce post-harvest losses and improve market access.
Other efforts required include micronutrient fortification of staple foods, better food safety, improved maternal and child nutrition and care, nutrition education, and government policies that promote access to nutritious food through social protection, poverty reduction and income inequality.
Key facts and figures
• Nearly three-quarters of Africans cannot afford a healthy diet
• Over half of all Africans (51%) cannot afford a nutrient-adequate diet
• An energy-sufficient diet is beyond the means of one in every 10 (11.3%) Africans
• Of the 185.5 million people globally who cannot afford an energy-sufficient diet, the vast majority (80%) live in Africa
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Nigeria’s Presidential CNG Initiative Allocates N100bn for CNG Buses and EV Adoption
The Presidential Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Initiative has allocated N100 billion to expedite the deployment of CNG buses nationwide, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
The initiative, designed to catalyze an Auto-gas and Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution in mass transit and transportation, aims to enhance sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
The statement revealed that the fund would be instrumental in supporting the adoption of auto-gas and electric vehicles, signaling a commitment to a more sustainable and economical future in the transportation sector.
The Presidential CNG Initiative plans to leverage over 11,500 CNG and electric-fueled vehicles, along with the deployment of 55,000 conversion kits.
This strategic approach is intended to reduce transportation costs for Nigerians and mitigate the challenges posed by the rising cost of living.
Under the Renewed Hope Agenda, the Presidential CNG Initiative is dedicated to realizing the President’s vision, guided by its steering committee led by FIRS Chairman Zacch Adedeji.
The statement highlighted recent achievements, including strategic technical partnerships and the ongoing commissioning of CNG Conversion centers in key states such as Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Ogun, and Rivers.
Several more centers are slated for commissioning in the coming weeks, reflecting the initiative’s momentum and commitment to achieving its objectives.
Nigeria’s Power Transformation: 53 Projects Worth N122bn on Track for May 2024 Completion
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and power distribution companies, is set to complete 53 power projects by May next year.
Valued at N122 billion, these projects aim to add over 1,000 megawatts to TCN’s wheeling capacity.
During a recent tour of three ongoing projects in Lagos, TCN’s Programme Coordinator, Mathew Ajibade, assured that the projects were not abandoned, refuting speculations.
He confirmed that work is progressing smoothly and is expected to be completed by May 2024, as initially planned.
Assistant Director/Head of Infrastructure Finance Office at the CBN, Tumba Tijani, highlighted the CBN’s support for the power sector, revealing that the bank released a loan at a 9% interest rate in August last year for the projects.
The funding, part of the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility-3, amounts to N122,289,344 and aims to address transmission/distribution bottlenecks, enhance supply to end-users, and unlock unutilized generation capacity.
Tijani disclosed that N85.43 billion has been disbursed into the Advance Payment Guarantee account of the 53 contractors responsible for executing the projects.
The comprehensive project list includes the delivery of power transformers, re-conductoring existing transmission lines, upgrading existing substations, and constructing 33KV line bays.
The initiative reflects a concerted effort to enhance Nigeria’s power infrastructure and meet growing energy demands.
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