Towards Malabo: Putting nations back on track to delivering food and nutrition security

Photo credit: Shutterstock | Nation Media Group

By Amb Josefa Leonel Correira Sacko

Amid growing hunger due to Covid-19, conflict, and climate change, the 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government, held in February 2022, declared 2022 the “Year of Nutrition and Food Security”. This declaration was aimed at mobilising nations in Africa to strengthen nutrition and food security, agro-food systems, health, and social protection, to accelerate “human, social and economic capital development”.

Speaking during the session, the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission described the declaration as “a unique opportunity to strengthen political commitment to end malnutrition in all its forms, and to further improve food and nutrition security through the implementation of Malabo commitments, and the goals and objectives of the Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy for the years 2016 to 2025”.

The theme could not have come at a better time, as food and nutrition security in Africa is off-track, three years to the endpoint of the Malabo declaration by 2025.

The 3rd Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Biennial Review report unveiled during the AU Summit in February 2022 and officially launched on March 10, the same year, indicates that even though one-third of the 51 member states are progressing well, only one country – Rwanda – is on track to achieve the goals of the seven Malabo Declaration commitments by 2025.

Continentally, traction has been gained in reducing hunger and malnutrition since 2003 as enshrined in CAADP and the 2014 Malabo declaration on accelerated agricultural transformation for shared prosperity and livelihoods. However, the pace was disrupted in the 2014-2019 period as a result of conflict and climate change, and their interactions with multiple other stressors and shocks.

In the last five years, the continent has been buffeted by at least five shocks: The fall armyworm invasion (2017-2018); desert locusts in the Horn of Africa (2019-2020); Covid-19 (2020 to date); Russia’s war on Ukraine (2022 and ongoing); and Climate Change (droughts, floods, cyclones).

Africa’s food systems, while changing as a result of population growth, rapid urbanisation, and a young population, remain critically constrained in almost all their key components. Food production and productivity, for instance, remains uncompetitive and grossly below potential in providing decent incomes for farmers, herders and fishers, as well as associated frontline entrepreneurs. This is despite agriculture being the main economic and livelihood activity for more than 60 percent of the continent’s population, contributing about 16 percent of the GDP.

The continent continues to be a net food importer, expending about $43 billion annually. This could reach $110 billion in 2025 if unchecked, despite having about 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. 

The most recent estimates show that about 346 million people in Africa, a quarter of the population, are undernourished and facing severe food insecurity, up from 286 million in 2021.

Two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region has left millions facing hunger and starvation. Insurgencies in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, have also deepened food insecurity in the Sahel, which now faces its worst food crisis in recent years. Many of countries facing conflict are also among the most severely affected by climate change. They include South Sudan and Somalia.

The number of people pushed into hunger because of drought in the Horn of Africa could rise from the current 14 million to 20 million by the end of the year.

The 2021 Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report indicated that nearly three-quarters of Africans could not afford a healthy diet. It further stated that 281.6 million people on the continent – over one-fifth of the population – were undernourished, an increase of 89.1 million since 2014, and 46.3 million more than in 2019. 

There is significant variation in the levels and trends of hunger across the regions. About 44.4 percent of undernourished people on the continent live in Eastern Africa, 26.7 percent in Western Africa, 20.3 percent in Central Africa, 6.2 percent for Northern Africa, and 2.4 percent for Southern Africa. In addition to the 346.4 million Africans enduring severe food insecurity, 452 million are experiencing moderate food insecurity.

In addition to hunger, millions of Africans suffer from widespread micronutrient deficiencies, while obesity and being overweight are already significant public health concerns in many countries.

According to the SUN Movement, malnutrition rates across Africa remain unacceptably high, with 13.7 percent of infants having a low birth weight and 30.7 percent of children aged 0-5 years suffering from stunting. Women are particularly at risk across Africa, with more than 40 percent of women of reproductive age suffering from anaemia.

Efforts are ongoing to assist member states and regional economic communities to implement resilient agriculture as well as the African Union Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy, to upscale climate-smart agriculture in Africa.

The Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) will continue providing the required support and technical back-stopping to assist member states to strengthen nutrition and food security.

ARBE is leveraging on ongoing flagship projects and activities of the African Union, such the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Free Movement of Persons, Education and Innovation, among others.


The writer is the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment


  • African Union and AUDA-NEPAD (2022) 3rd CAADP Biennial Review Report.
  • Assembly Decision (Assembly/AU/2(XXIII)) of June 2014. The Biennial Review Report of the African Union Commission on the Implementation of the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods.
  • FAO, ECA and AUC (2021). Africa – Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021: Statistics and Trends. Accra.
  • Gillespie, S., Harris, J., Nisbett, N., and M. van den Bold (2021). Food System Transformations for Healthier Diets, Inclusive Livelihoods and Sustainable Environment. Stories of Change in Nutrition from Africa and Asia: An Introduction to a Special Series in Food Security. Food Security. 13, 799–802.
  • SUN Movement (2022). SUN Movement Statement of Support for the African Union’s 2022 Year of Nutrition for Africa. News and Press Release posted on February 8, 2022.