Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 35th ordinary session, the Heads of State of the African Union expressed their views on several topical issues. These include the issue of nutrition, which, given its importance, has been placed at the centre of the reflections.
Undernutrition is a state of severe food deprivation characterised by insufficient food intake to meet an individual’s daily energy requirements and resulting in nutritional deficiencies. According to the latest FAO report, 21% of the African population or 418 million people were undernourished in 2020. On the continent, 61.4 million children under the age of five are stunted, of which 12.1 million are wasted and 10.6 million are overweight. Given this state of affairs, it is necessary for the African Union to take measures to improve the living conditions of the population.
Hence the issue of “Building Resilience for Nutritional Security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agri-Food, Health and Social Protection Systems to Accelerate Socio-economic and Human Capital Development“. The 35th summit of African heads of state took place under this theme proposed by the Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara. It thus testifies to the urgency of thinking about the eradication of food insecurity in Africa. Machy Sall, current Chairperson of the AU, began by thanking all his colleagues for the efforts they have already made and invited each of them to take the issue on board for the continent’s food emergence.
According to the organisation’s statistics, in 2019 the continent was home to 58.7 million stunted children under the age of five, more than a third of the world’s total, and only seven member countries had a child stunting rate below 19%. In his speech, the Chairman of the African Union emphasised two key points that will surely lead the continent towards achieving food sovereignty. These are essentially : “Modernisation of our production, conservation and processing tools and methods; and improvement of inputs, water management, development of value chains and facilitation of market access. This initiative to make 2022 a year of nutrition was supported by the African Leaders’ Collective with the financial support of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
In addition, three objectives underpin the nutrition year. The aim is to secure the investment needed to implement a nutrition action plan that will reduce malnutrition across the continent, identify cost-effective interventions worth implementing and promote accountability.
Nutrition first, development later
This vision of leaders will address the problem of underdevelopment at the basic level. No policy in the world can really succeed if people are not well fed. So states can start building roads, schools, hospitals or rehabilitation and sanitation projects, but when food security is not guaranteed, the efforts will remain null and void. Then the country might have a workforce but an inefficient workforce.
For example, for decades the Horn of Africa has regularly suffered from food crises which not only prevent the development of countries but also lead to endless conflicts among the population. The vision is to be applauded and the actors are urged to make this flagship project of the African Union a reality.