African growth fails to counter hunger
SUB-SAHARAN Africa posted economic growth rates higher than the worldwide average, but had the greatest food security problems, the UN development agency said in a report yesterday.
“Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition,” Helen Clark, administrator at the UN Development Programme, said at the release of the report.
“Between 2004 and 2008 African economies grew an average of 6.5% a year, only slowing to 2.7% in 2009 in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis,” the report read.
“Sub-saharan Africa rebounded in 2010, regaining its high growth rates [5.4% in 2010 and 5.2% last year],” it added, noting that African economies were likely to grow at a rate of more than 5.0% this year.
In terms of economic growth this has been “the second fastest region after developing Asia for a couple of years,” a policy adviser at the UNDP’S regional bureau for Africa, Sebastian Levine, told reporters.
However, with one person in four suffering from malnutrition, Sub-saharan Africa remains the region hardest hit by food insecurity.
“The reports come at a time when yet another severe food crisis is affecting the Sahel region of West Africa,” Clark pointed out.
Last year alone, millions of people on the other side of the continent, in the Horn of Africa, were similarly struck with famine eventuating in parts of Somalia. Droughts, crop failures and other disasters often trigger these crises,” she added. “But the real causes go deeper,” she said.
UNDP advocates an increase in agricultural activity through greater – but controlled – access to fertilisers or new seeds and investment in irrigation.
However, “no one believes it is possible simply to distribute better seeds and more fertiliser to African farmers and then to walk away,” the damning report cautioned.
“Nor will economic growth alone solve the problem . . . Misguided policies, weak institutions and failing markets are the deeper causes of SubSaharan Africa’s food insecurity,” the document noted.
In a region of 856 million people, agricultural development has for too long been sacrificed in favour of urban development, and agriculture is still over-taxed, the UNDP says, calling for more efforts in education, research and development in order to fight the scourge of malnutrition.
Pedro Conceiçao, chief economist in the UNDP’S Africa bureau, explained it was not “just a case of producing more and more food”.
“The population needs to be able to generate revenue in order to gain access to crops,” he said. — SAPA-AFP