ROME, Jan 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Africa could eliminate hunger by 2025 if countries embraced effective policies on job creation, political stability and social protection, a U.N. official said on Thursday.
“Countries in Africa are making significant progress (towards ending hunger), there is a high level of political commitment,” James Tefft, a senior policy officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Some business leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum backed that view.
Economic breakthroughs over the next 15 years will “improve the lives of people in poor countries faster than at any other time in history”, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in an open letter released on Wednesday.
Africa, home to seven of the planet’s 10 fastest growing economies, has the youngest population of any continent, the FAO said.
Progress is being made in many countries, but violence, poor governance and political instability are holding others back.
“We tend to see the hunger and food security situation as factors that drive and propel complex crises,” Tefft said.
Even parts of Somalia and Uganda, areas where violence has hit food production, have seen improvements recently, he said.
Governments need to improve aid to conflict-hit regions to try to stimulate production and employment and help defuse bouts of violence, he said.
Most of Africa’s food is grown by small farmers, and improving their access to credit and inputs like fertilizers is crucial for boosting local production and creating jobs, Tefft said.
A significant group of African states have met the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry people compared with 1990, including: Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Malawi, Mauritania, South Africa and Togo.
Others, including Ghana, Cameroon and Mali have done even better, reducing the absolute number of hungry people by 50 percent or more.
These relative improvements, however, mask large challenges.
Rising populations mean the absolute number of hungry people across the continent rose from 217 million in 1990 to 227 million in 2014, FAO data showed.
One in four people across sub-Saharan Africa are still undernourished, the highest proportion of any region on earth. according to the FAO’s 2014 report State of Food Insecurity in the World.
To meet their targets on reducing hunger, African leaders signed the Malabo Declaration last year, setting a series of goals including: targeting 10 percent of public spending on agriculture, doubling farm productivity, growing farm economies by at least 6 percent annually, and tripling inter-African trade in agricultural goods and services. (Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Tim Pearce)