Time to go back to the basics of African nutrition

The impacts of climate change, violent conflicts and rising global food prices due to supply chain constraints are currently some of the main threats to food security on the African continent. To combat this persisting challenge, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba (PLO) – the founder of the PLO Lumumba Foundation – says it is time for Africa to return to its roots and explore the basics of African nutrition.

Lumumba was speaking at a webinar commemorating Africa Day on Thursday, 26 May hosted by the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) at Wits Business School, in partnership with the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS), the Southern Africa Youth Forum, (SAYoF), the Philanthropy Circuit, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Harvard Centre for African Studies. Celebrating Africa Day under the theme of nutrition – in line with the African Union’s (AU) 2022 focus – the event sought to highlight nutritious foods from around the continent and centre their production and intercountry and regional trade as the solution to food security in Africa.

Acknowledging that food insecurity on the African continent is not a new challenge, Lumumba said that allowing the problem to fester will not only lead to the starvation of African people but will also cripple the continent’s economies and isolate it politically from the global environment.

“It is important to recognise that there are certain foods which over the years have sustained the African continent, and we ought not to abandon them,” Lumumba said.

“The time is now that we must use this year which has been declared as the year of nutrition to re-examine some of our practices… I think the time is now that we must ask ourselves difficult questions and in a manner of speaking, go back to the basics,” he added.

Implementing on promises

Lumumba reminded delegates of the various declarations made over the years, promises Africans have made to themselves to turn the tide on hunger and poverty, but said that in many ways Africans have been “sleeping on the job”.

“There is no shortage of documentation on what is good for Africa and what needs to be done on the continent of Africa. I suggest we go back into the archives and revisit the declarations and solemn vows we have made towards addressing the issues of poverty and hunger, and dedicate a period of three years to implementing the things we have promised to do.

“In this year of nutrition, let us celebrate but let us do so in the knowledge that there is a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Betty Ka, Deputy Director of Supply Chain at the World Food Programme (WFP), explained that, as the largest humanitarian agency in the world, the WFP is dedicated to supporting small producers by purchasing food locally and regionally. In 2021 the WFP purchased $2.4 billion of food commodities across the globe. A significant portion of this intends to support livelihoods in Africa through purchases from local traders and farmers to sustain lives in Africa.

“Food security is our most urgent global challenge following the Covid-19 pandemic, economic downturns and supply chain disruptions. One way that we are addressing this is to procure locally produced foods to help ensure food security in the short to medium term. It will also help to create sustainable livelihoods for small producers on the African continent,” she said.

Embracing opportunities on home soil

In closing, Dr Keratiloe Mogotsi, lecturer in African philanthropy at CAPSI, urged the delegates to embrace their ‘Africanness’ and help seek pan-African solutions to our continent’s challenges.

"I wish to highlight that the action that needs to be taken is not the responsibility of your government. It's not the responsibility of aid organisations or the private sector. It's you and me as ordinary citizens of this continent who have a huge role to play to turn this picture around."

“There are tremendous opportunities in agriculture, in retail food and beverages, entrepreneurship, opportunities for us to mass produce our own food, and for us to be the experts of our food and our ways,” she said.

Understanding the role of African philanthropy

Mogotsi also highlighted the work that CAPSI does promoting social change in Africa through its research and teaching programmes.

WBS is the first business school in Africa to offer academic programmes in African philanthropy – a Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s degree. Under the Executive Education banner, WBS also offers six-week certificate courses for those students wanting to deepen their understanding of African philanthropy but cannot commit to one of the longer programmes. A number of shorter masterclasses are also on offer which focus on a range of topics from understanding venture philanthropy to mobilising resources for projects.

CAPSI was formed in 2017 to build a new generation of African experts, researchers and academics in African philanthropy, social investment and related disciplines.

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At the Wits Business School we recognise that our task, through our academic and executive education programmes, is to equip leaders, managers and entrepreneurs with skills to proactively address challenges presented by the changing environment within which we operate.
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