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Developing Africa’s “grey matter infrastructure” through multi-sector investments in nutrition in Africa was a key focus Monday at the African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings in India.

Building on the AfDB President Adesina’s strong commitment to unlock sustainable economic growth, participants agreed that investing in physical infrastructure cannot help Africa to move forward without building brainpower. Speaking at a side event on “Developing Africa’s Grey Matter Infrastructure: Addressing Africa’s Nutrition Challenges” for healthy children, families, and economies, they highlighted the importance and urgency of fighting the scourge of malnutrition on the African continent. The event also established a foundation for further high-level dialogue and leadership to end malnutrition for health and prosperity for Africans and Africa on the whole. 

Malnutrition – the cause of half of child deaths worldwide – continues to rob generations of Africans of the chance to grow to their full physical and cognitive potential, hugely impacting not only health outcomes, but also economic development in Africa. Malnutrition is unacceptably high on the continent, with 58 million or 36% of children under the age of five chronically undernourished (suffering from stunting), and 13 million or 8.5% of children acutely undernourished (suffering from wasting). In some countries, as many as one out of every two children suffer from stunting. The effects of stunting are irreversible, impacting the ability of children’s bodies and brains to grow to their full potential. This is often linked to vulnerability to illness, difficulty in school, and ultimately reduced adult labour capacity. The impact of this weakened labour force, and worsened health outcomes for entire generations of children, has dire consequences for a country’s economic development. Ultimately, stunting feeds the cycle of poverty.

Assisting African Governments to build strong and robust economies is accordingly a key priority for the AfDB. Recognizing the potential that exists in the continent’s vast human capital, President Adesina included nutrition as a focus area under the Bank’s five operational priorities – the High 5s.

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