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New Report Finds Fruit, Vegetables, Protein Remain Out of Reach for Most Africans

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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

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

COVID-19 Wiped Off $5B Diaspora Remittances, Says FG

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The Federal Government said that the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped off 20 percent of the $25bn annual diaspora remittances to Nigeria.

The government noted that various targeted programmes were being implemented to shore up the deficit.

Disclosing this at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday to announce the 2021 Diaspora Day celebration scheduled for July 25, the Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the home remittances were over 83 percent of the national budget and 6.1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

The World Bank had said remittances by Nigerians in the Diaspora declined by 27.7 percent in 2020. It had also put remittances into the country in 2019 at $21.45bn.

She explained that the remittances serve as economic buffers and safety nets to families for school fees, feeding, hospital bills and many other social support systems.

According to her, 30 percent of the remittances are channeled into investments including real estate, commercial businesses and others.

Responding to a question on the impact of the pandemic on the remittances, Dabiri-Erewa stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the annual Diasporan remittances by 20 percent but doesn’t forget that we are also coming up with different programmes.

“Remittances actually go to support families but we are having targeted programmes from the diaspora, particularly housing which would be unveiled that day.”

The NIDCOM chairman stressed that the nation could not afford to ignore about 17 million Nigerians living outside the sovereign boundaries of the nation, sending home remittances of about $25 billion annually.

She noted that the National Diaspora Day 2021 celebration themed: ‘Diaspora integration for national peace and development’, would anchor on peace to accelerate diaspora engagement for national growth and development, adding that no nation succeeded in an atmosphere of insecurity, hatred and divisive tendencies.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, Dabiri-Erewa explained that the diaspora day 2021 would be celebrated via a webinar and would feature the presentation of the recently approved National Diaspora Policy, nomination for awardees for the proposed National Diaspora Merit Award, presentation from the Diaspora Investment Summit Initiative, among other activities.

The President, Muhammadu Buhari, and other dignitaries, including the Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, Dr Amina Mohammed; the Director-General, World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and others will address the participants.

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Nigeria Experience Worst Unemployment In A Decade, As More Youth Seek Migration To Escape Poverty – World Bank

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The World Bank affirmed that Nigeria is currently going through one of its worst unemployment crises in recent times.

“Nigeria is facing one of the most acute jobless crises in recent times. Between 2014 and 2020, Nigeria’s working-age population grew from 102 million to 122 million, growing at an average rate of approximately 3 percent per year, the multilateral lender said in its latest report on Nigeria.

“Similarly, Nigeria’s active labour force population, that is, those willing and able to work among the working-age population, grew from 73 million in 2014 to 90 million in 2018, adding 17.5 million new entrants to Nigeria’s active labour force.

“Since 2018, however, the active labour force population has dramatically decreased to around 70 million—lower than the level in 2014— while the number of Nigerians who are in the working-age population but not active in the labour force has increased from 29 million to 52 million between 2014 and 2020.

“The expanding working-age population combined with scarce domestic employment opportunities is creating high rates of unemployment, particularly for Nigeria’s youth,” the World Bank report noted.

However, between 2010 and 2020, the international financial institution estimated that the unemployment rate rose five-fold, from 6.4 percent in 2010 to 33.3 percent in 2020, with the rates being particularly acute since the 2015/2016 economic recession and further worsened as COVID-19 led to the worst recession in four decades in 2020.

Increasingly, it noted that educated Nigerians were struggling to find employment opportunities in the country while unemployment rates increased substantially for Nigerians across all education levels over the years, becoming progressively challenging for educated Nigerians to find employment opportunities.

“Combined with significant demographic changes and increased aspirations of the youth, Nigeria’s unemployment crisis is creating migratory pressure in the economy.

“Unemployment is considered to be a key driver of migration. Consequently, multiple surveys show that the number of Nigerians, who are looking to migrate internationally is high and increasing,” it pointed out.

In the last few years, the bank stated that the number of persons eager to migrate has increased from 36 percent in 2014, to 52 percent in 2018, noting that the desire to migrate remains higher among unemployed (38 percent), youth (39 percent), secondary education graduates (39 percent), urban residents (41 percent) and post-secondary graduates (45 percent) in Nigeria.

It maintained that since there has not been an expansion of legal migration routes for youth increasingly eager to find opportunities in the overseas labour market, young Nigerians are opting for irregular migration routes to realise their hopes for a better life.

“What is worrying, however, is the increase in the number of forced and irregular migrants from Nigeria, “ it disclosed.

According to a new report by the multilateral lender, the socio-economic challenges facing Nigerians in the last 10 years have led to an astronomical increase in the number of citizens seeking asylum and refugee status in other countries.

The World Bank further estimated that there were 2.1 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria in 2020 alone.

The, however, blamed a combination of rising unemployment, booming demographics, and unfulfilled aspirations as resulting in increasing pressure on young Nigerians to migrate in search of gainful employment overseas.

In addition, the Washington-based institution disclosed that the number of international migrants from Nigeria has increased threefold since 1990, growing from 446,806 in 1990 to 1,438,331 in 2019.

It explained that despite this trend, the share of international migrants as a proportion to Nigeria’s population has remained largely constant, increased slightly from 0.5 percent in 1990 to 0.7 per cent in 2019.

The lender said the recent rise in irregular migration notwithstanding, the share of international migrants in Nigeria’s population was much lower compared to the shares in Sub-Saharan Africa and globally.

The data showed that the number has risen by over 1,380 percent in the years between 2010 and 2019, indicating that in comparison, the number of persons coming into Nigeria from outside has been relatively stagnant in the decade under consideration.

“An important trend that is observed in the data is the rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria. The share of refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria has increased drastically in the last decade, growing from 27,557 in 2010 to 408,078 in 2019,” it stated.

It noted that although the country was reaping dividends from the success of its citizens in the diaspora, which was put at five percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019, when it comes to the discourse on international migration, the narrative has not been palatable.

It stressed that to ensure mutual cooperation, the European Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which was established in 2015, with the aim to promote areas of mutual development interest between Europe and Africa, has since provided more than €4 billion in aid to African countries to address various development-related challenges and priorities in Africa.

Since its inception, the EUTF, the bank stated, has provided more than €770 million for migration-related projects in Nigeria, with most of the funds invested in border control measures, awareness campaigns to stop trafficking, and the creation of jobs domestically, including for returned Nigerian migrants.

While predicting that by 2100, Europe’s working age population between the ages of 20 and 64 would decline by 30 percent owing to low birth-rates and increased longevity, it further projected that at same time, the working age-population in Nigeria could increase by 140 percent.

“By expanding legal pathways for migration and implementing supporting measures to reap dividends from current migrants in the diaspora, Nigeria can further benefit from international migration.

“Nigeria’s institutions are well-placed to promote managed migration approaches that help create opportunities for prospective Nigerian job seekers to find employment internationally and can be supported to help design schemes that increase the returns to human capital investments for Nigerian youth,” the report concluded.

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African Development Bank Group and Ethiopia Sign $118 Million Grant Agreement to Support Agro industrial park, Youth Employment

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The African Development Bank Group and the Government of Ethiopia have signed two separate grant agreements for new projects to boost youth employment and electricity trade between Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The grants fall under the Bank Group’s concessional lending window, the African Development Fund, and will go towards the Productivity Enhancement to Support Agro Industrial Parks and Youth Employment Project worth $47 million, and the $71 million Ethiopia-Djibouti Second Power Interconnection Project, which aims to boost electricity trade between Ethiopia and neighbouring Djibouti.

The industrial parks and youth project will see the development of irrigation and water management infrastructure around the Integrated Agro-Industrial Parks, offering opportunities for graduate “agri-preneurs” to establish agro-related, commercially viable businesses. The $102 million venture is being co-financed with the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), with a $5.25 million contribution by the Ethiopian government.

Under the scheme, 12,607 ha of irrigated land would be developed and about 3,000 youths will receive both agronomic/agriculture and business development training. Bank financing is expected to cover 4,607 ha and BADEA financing another 8,000 ha.

The irrigation infrastructure will strengthen water users’ associations; protect the water-shed areas around the irrigation schemes; go towards training farmers and youth agri-preneurs on soil and water conservation practices, agricultural production, value addition and marketing; and support established youth SMEs to access credit.

The project will be implemented over a five-year period (2021-2026) under the supervision of the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy and the country’s Irrigation Development Commission.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Second Power Interconnection Project follows an earlier Bank-financed power interconnection project between the two countries, and builds on its accrued benefits over the last 10 years. It will enable the construction of about 300 km of interconnector lines, 170 km of transmission lines to reinforce the network within Ethiopia, and new construction and expansion of substations in the two countries. In Djibouti, expected benefits include a 65% increase in customer connections and a sharp reduction in the use of thermal generation plants from 100% to around 16%. In Ethiopia, the project would lead to higher incomes from the power trade which over the last 10 years stood at over $275 million in revenue from power exports.

Upon completion, Ethiopia’s revenue from power exports will increase, while at the same time boosting Djibouti’s access to reliable, affordable, and clean electricity and lowering its greenhouse gas emissions.

“By enhancing economic ties through increased cross-border power trade and improved economic competitiveness, the project will contribute towards harnessing regional peace and stability and addressing regional fragility,” said Dr. Abdul Kamara, Deputy Director General, East Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office of the African Development Bank.

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group approved funding of both projects on 7 July 2021. The grant agreements were signed on 21 July 2021 by Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Shide, and Kamara.

The African Development Bank is a major player in Ethiopia’s development agenda and currently has operations valued at about $1.76 billion, covering basic services, energy, transport, water supply and sanitation, agriculture, governance, and the private sector.

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