NAIROBI, Kenya – Sub-Saharan African nations will not be able to sustain their accelerated economic growth unless they eliminate hunger, the U.N. said in a report Tuesday.
Many sub-Saharan economies are growing fast but the growth rates have not translated into significant hunger reduction, said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.
Sub-Saharan Africa's growth, this year expected to be more than 5 percent, is accelerating faster than the rest of the world excluding China and India, according to UNDP statistics.
According to the agency's African Development Report, nearly 218 million people on the continent are undernourished and 55 million children are malnourished, a figure that is projected to rise.
The report says food security can be achieved by several means, including boosting agricultural productivity and creating resilience against natural disasters.
Tegegnework Gettu, an assistant secretary-general and regional director for the UNDP bureau in Africa, said chronic food security in sub-Saharan Africa stems from decades of poor governance.
"Regimes bent on amassing wealth absorbed the region's resources into patrimonial power structures," he said. "Self-serving elite quick to profit from graft and patronage have stood between the leaders and the people, monopolized state revenues and emptied the countryside, but they have provided neither employment nor industry."
He said Africa has the knowledge, the technology and the means to end hunger and food insecurity but lacks the political will and dedication.
"Africa must stop begging for food. That is an affront to both its dignity and its potential," he said. "If some African countries can acquire and deploy jet fighters, tanks, artillery and other means of destruction, why should they not be able to master agricultural know-how? Why should African be unable to afford technology, tractors, irrigation, seed varieties and training needed to be food secure?"
The U.K. estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in last year's famine in Somalia and drought in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti.
More than 15 million people are currently at risk of hunger in a zone that includes some of the poorest countries in the world: Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, as well as parts of northern Senegal, northern Nigeria and Cameroon.
Gettu said the international community is also responsible for food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Developed countries maintain agricultural subsidies that benefit their producers while pushing sub-Saharan Africa's impoverished small-holder farmers to the margins, he said.
Similar sentiments were echoed by local analysts.
Economist James Shikwati, who heads the Kenyan economic think tank the Inter Region Economic Network, said in the existing global trade system which is valued at 36 trillion dollars, Africa only contributes 3 percent.
"If the U.N. really wanted to help African farmers, the point would be to leverage on the indigenous crops and foods in Africa and have them access global markets so that farmers can also tap in to this 36 trillion dollars global trade system." Shikwati said.