A senior United Nations official has called for greater investments in agriculture and rural development to boost economic growth and reduce poverty in Africa, both of which are critical to achieving the global target of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.
“Rapid agricultural and rural development holds the key to eliminating poverty in Africa,” Kanayo Nwanze, Vice-President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) told the meeting of African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa delegates gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“A concerted, coordinated and collective effort is the most effective way to tackle the triple scourge of poverty, climate change and high food prices and to guarantee a sustainable future for women, marginalized groups and smallholder farmers in Africa,” he stated.
Mr. Nwanze stressed that the situation in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, remains critical and recent food price riots in some African countries are likely to expand in the coming months. “The escalation of social unrest we have seen in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Senegal may become commonplace in other African countries,” he said.
While noting the gains achieved by sub-Saharan African countries in recent years, several UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have cited an urgent need to scale up efforts to meet the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
According to IFAD, the proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty remains above 40 per cent. In addition, while the proportion of undernourished people in Africa decreased between 1990 and 2000 – from 29 per cent to 27 per cent – the absolute number of undernourished people rose by about 20 per cent – from 174 million to 212 million – during the same period.
The Fund is currently supporting more than 120 programmes and projects in Africa, worth over $2.6 billion. Almost half of that funding is provided by IFAD and the rest is from partners, including national governments.