African governments should diversify food production: H.E. Kikwete

Group of adolescent girls in Senegal

Even before COVID-19, the global burden of malnutrition was shifting to Africa, said His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, the former President of the Republic of Tanzania and Nutrition International board member, in his keynote address during the Commemoration of the 11th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS).

“Africa is the only region in the world where the number of stunted children has increased in the last 20 years,” said H.E. Kikwete. “Today, close to 60 million children in Africa are stunted and by 2030, over half of the world’s undernourished people will live in Africa.”

Dr. Kikwete called on the 55 member states of the African Union (AU) to develop policies and investments to ensure diversification of food production away from staple food cereals, and asked governments to look at the nexus of food and nutrition in areas such as staple food fortification and biofortification, to ensure enriched foods are used in social protection programs. Furthermore, he appealed to the private sector to promote healthy eating by ensuring food industries produce nutritious foods that are accessible and affordable.

The focus of the 11th ADFNS was to uncover the underlying benefits of investments in resilient food systems, with a special focus on situations dictated by emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s theme, Resilient Food Systems toward Healthy Diets for the Vulnerable during Emergencies: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, was explored through four virtual Technical Dialogue meetings on October 29. More than 180 participants attended these sessions, which yielded key recommendations for governments and stakeholders to improve food systems and nutrition.\

The main event on October 30 was attended by 120 participants from 55 member states of the African Union. Other speakers included Ambassador Josefa Sacko, the African Union’s Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture; H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the AU Development Agency-NEPAD; Dr Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director General for Africa, and representatives of the UN and international agencies.

Read the full keynote address from H.E. Kikwete here.