UNDP expresses concern over mounting hunger in Africa; ECOWAS to send troops to Guinea-Bissau; African Union press for peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan; US announces food initiative for Africa;
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  • According to Sebastian Levine, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) policy adviser for Africa, Africa needs to boost agricultural productivity and address the accumulating hunger that affects 27 percent of its population if it wants to sustain its economic boom. The officer clarified that the African economies grew at an average of more than 5 percent during the past decade with many countries benefiting from surging commodity prices, as well as growth in services, construction and agriculture. However, the character of the growth has done little to reduce extreme poverty and hunger as more than 40 percent of African children under five are malnourished. Further, Africa continues to be a net importer of food despite an abundance of fertile land and water. 1

    Following a recent military coup in Guinea-Bissau, the Economic Community of West African States announced that it will be sending more than 600 soldiers to the country as part of a regional attempt to restore order. It read that the troops will arrive in Guinea-Bissau "to relieve the Angolan military personnel [and] support the restoration of constitutional rule." 2

    According to reports, the African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki left for Khartoum after Sudan and South Sudan missed a U.N. Security Council deadline to resume the peace talks intended to resolve their disputes over oil transit fees, border and other issues. The peace effort came at a time when the U.N. and aid agencies warned of a growing humanitarian catastrophe due to the conflict. Separately, Johnnie Carson, U.S. assistant secretary of State on Africa, called on both sides to return to the negotiating table. 3

    In another development, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a plan aimed at lifting 50 million Africans out of poverty in the next 10 years. Speaking at a food security forum in Washington, the president said ending hunger by making African farms more productive is a moral imperative. In this regard, the president emphasized that governments, private industries and organisations will work together to improve Africa's food security. At the meeting, private companies from around the world have pledged more than $3 billion toward the effort. 4

    The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has aimed to create a free market of 525 million people with an output of $1 trillion and also announced that plans to create a 26-nation free trade area by integrating these three existing African trade blocs by July 2014 are on track. The three blocs opined that the only major sticking point is likely to be harmonising rules of origin. 5

    In other developments, according to reports, G-8 leaders pledged to lift millions of Africans out of poverty by promoting investments in sustainable agriculture. The group announced that it is committed to launch a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture, implement new technologies and other innovations that can increase sustainable agricultural productivity, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities. However, civil society observers appeared skeptical about the endeavor's success. 6