AFRICA – The African Development Bank (AfDB) has called on governments across Africa to invest in food markets in order to enhance food security in the continent.

Speaking during the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7), Bank VP for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke said that investing in food markets could help governments win the fight against stunting and improve nutrition across the continent.

Despite holding 60 percent of the world’s arable land, African countries are estimated to use nearly US$50 billion net of food imports annually.

Arguably, the rising population as well as a rising middle class present a massive opportunity in terms of agribusiness and the consumer market.

“What a huge potential the food markets represent. ‘Feed Africa,’ which is one of the Bank’s High 5 priorities, has nutrition at its core,” Blanke said.

“There is a business case for governments to invest in grey matter, or brainpower, and this requires much more nutritious diets” Blanke insisted during a panel discussion themed: “Ending Malnutrition in Africa: Towards Nutrition for Growth 2020 & Beyond.”

The stakeholders acknowledged that despite small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in particular playing a predominant role in the food supply chains in Africa, their growth has been slow.

“The biggest constraint to their scaling up is lack of access to finance,” Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) said.

With most people in Africa getting their food from local markets, business opportunities for healthy foods abound everywhere in the food system and potential investors were urged to engage and explore.

The participants also underscored the contribution of policy makers in providing the private sector with an enabling environment in fighting malnutrition.

The event was held in Yokohama, Japan running under the theme Advancing Africa’s development through technology, innovation and people.

The conference is focused on Africa’s economic transformation and the business environment through partnerships and increased cooperation with Japan.

Notably, technology, access to finance, education and digital technology were also highlighted to help women leapfrog over many hurdles in the overall Africa’s development agenda.

The Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative aims to raise at least $300 million for a guarantee facility that will spur lending of ten times at much (around $3 billion) to African women entrepreneurs.