NAIROBI, May 15 – Sub-Saharan Africa posts economic growth rates higher than the worldwide average but has the planet’s greatest food security problems, the UN development agency said in a report Tuesday.
“Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition,” Helen Clark, administrator at the United Nations Development Programme said in a statement at the release of the report.
“Between 2004 and 2008 African economies grew an average of 6.5 percent a year, only slowing to 2.7 percent 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 percent in 2010 and 5.2 percent in 2011),” it added, noting that African economies are likely to grow at a rate of more than 5.0 percent in 2012.
In terms of economic growth this has been “the second fastest region after developing Asia for a couple of years,” Sebastian Levine, a policy adviser at UNDP’s regional bureau for Africa 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 noted.
In 2011 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.”
UNDP advocates an increase in agricultural activity through greater — but controlled — access to fertilisers or new seeds, and more investment in irrigation.
However, “no one believes it is possible simply to distribute better seeds and more fertilizer to African farmers and then to walk away,” the report said.
“Nor will economic growth alone solve the problem. … misguided policies, weak institutions and failing markets are the deeper causes of sub-Saharan Africa’s food insecurity,” it added.
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, UNDP said, calling for more efforts in education, research and development in order to fight malnutrition.
Pedro Conceiçao, chief economist in UNDP’s Africa bureau explained it is 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 added.