Africa could end hunger in next decade

Despite challenges Africa countries are making significant progress toward ending hunger, a UN official says.

Edward Echwalu/Reuters/File
A chef at the Tamarai restaurant in Kampala, Uganda, prepares a food order. Africa is home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. While it is moving toward self-sufficiency in food, 1 in 4 people across sub-Saharan Africa is still undernourished.

Africa could eliminate hunger by 2025 if countries embraced effective policies on job creation, political stability, and social protection, a UN official said Jan. 22.

"Countries in Africa are making significant progress [toward ending hunger], there is a high level of political commitment," James Tefft, a senior policy officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some business leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum backed that view.

Economic breakthroughs over the next 15 years will "improve the lives of people in poor countries faster than at any other time in history," the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in an open letter released Jan. 21.

Africa, home to seven of the planet's 10 fastest-growing economies, has the youngest population of any continent, the FAO said.

Progress is being made in many countries, but violence, poor governance, and political instability are holding others back.

"We tend to see the hunger and food security situation as factors that drive and propel complex crises," Tefft said.

Even parts of Somalia and Uganda, areas where violence has hit food production, have seen improvements recently, he said.

Governments need to improve aid to conflict-hit regions to try to stimulate production and employment and help defuse bouts of violence, he said.

Most of Africa's food is grown by small farmers, and improving their access to credit and inputs like fertilizers is crucial for boosting local production and creating jobs, Tefft said.

A significant group of African states have met the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people compared with 1990, including Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Malawi, Mauritania, South Africa, and Togo.

Others, including Ghana, Cameroon, and Mali have done even better, reducing the absolute number of hungry people by 50 percent or more.

These relative improvements, however, mask large challenges.

Rising populations mean the absolute number of hungry people across the continent rose from 217 million in 1990 to 227 million in 2014, FAO data showed.

One in four people across sub-Saharan Africa are still undernourished, the highest proportion of any region on earth. according to the FAO's 2014 report State of Food Insecurity in the World.

To meet their targets on reducing hunger, African leaders signed the Malabo Declaration last year, setting a series of goals including targeting 10 percent of public spending on agriculture, doubling farm productivity, growing farm economies by at least 6 percent annually, and tripling inter-African trade in agricultural goods and services.

This article originally appeared at Thomson Reuters Foundation, a source of news, information, and connections for action. It provides programs that trigger change, empower people, and offer concrete solutions.

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