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Stunted growth costing Africa $25bn a year, says Development Bank

The African Development Bank’s group president has made an economic case for investment in action against malnutrition.

Article originally published on Public Finance International.

Speaking at a session on Developing Africa’s Grey Matter Infrastructure: Addressing Africa’s Nutrition Challenges at the AfDB’s 52nd annual meeting, Akinwumi Adesina said stunting – where growth is impaired due to malnutrition - affected 58m children across the continent and cost Africa $25bn a year. He said: “We have way above 280 million people in Africa that are malnourished and it doesn’t make sense really, when you take a look at the amount of kids that are actually stunted, it is even more mind boggling.”

The AfDB annual meeting last year launched the African Leaders for Nutrition Initiative aimed at making nutrition an investment priority for inclusive, transformative and sustainable growth on the continent.

A report last year by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition said under-nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa remained pervasive and that this cost African economies between 3-16% of GDP annually. Nutrition interventions were excellent investments it said, with a typical African country seeing every dollar invested yielding a $16 return. A 2015 World Economic Forum report said adults who were stunted as children earn 20% less than those not affected and were 30% more likely to live in poverty and less likely to be in skilled work. It said that in Eritrea “low land productivity is a key factor in stunting”, while in Madagascar “the driving force of stunting is a lack of money” and in Rwanda the main issue was mothers’ “lack of education on feeding and weaning”.