Japan investors have been challenged to invest in Africa’s food markets to help fight hunger and boost nutrition.
“By investing in Africa’s food markets, governments can win the fight against stunting and improve nutrition across the continent. And with support from institutions like the African Development Bank the results would be a win-win situation for all,” Jennifer Blanke, the Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, African Development Bank Group said in Yokohama on Thursday.
“What a huge potential the food markets represent. “Feed Africa,” which is one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities, has nutrition at its core,” Blanke said at a panel discussion on day two of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
The session, organised by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (GPAN)and the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN), was titled Ending Malnutrition in Africa: Towards Nutrition for Growth 2020 and Beyond.
Despite holding 60 percent of the world’s arable land, African countries import nearly $50 billion net of food annually. Yet the population bulge and a rising middle class represent a massive opportunity in terms of agribusiness and the consumer market.
“There is a business case for governments to invest in grey matter or brainpower, and this requires much more nutritious diets” Blanke said.
With most people in Africa getting their food from local markets, business opportunities for healthy foods abound everywhere in the food system and potential investors were urged to engage and explore,” Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition said.
Small and medium enterprises play a predominant role in the food supply chains in Africa, but their growth has been slow.
“The biggest constraint to their scaling up is lack of access to finance,” he said.
On Wednesday, a discussion on empowering women and girls highlighted how that directly benefits Africa’s development agenda.
Technology, access to finance, education and digital technology can help women leapfrog over many hurdles.
“It is essential that women are empowered to become a vehicle for transforming society,” Toshiko Abe, of Japan’s Ministry of Finance said.
Blanke said women in agriculture were an overlooked stakeholder group. In many parts of Africa most farmers are women.
The Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative known as AFAWA, seeks to support women entrepreneurs in Africa.
Through AFAWA, the African Development Bank aims to raise at least $300 million for a guarantee facility that will spur lending of 10 times at much (around $3 billion) to African women entrepreneurs.