Munich Personal RePEc Archive

National Income and Malnutrition in Africa: a Rapid Assessment

Sukati, Mphumuzi (2018): National Income and Malnutrition in Africa: a Rapid Assessment.

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This paper pursues a simple analysis of a static relationship between national income and income distribution, and obesity/overweight and undernutrition in African countries. From intuition, a relation between national income (GDP/Capita) and malnutrition is expected. Countries that have higher income are expected to have higher prevalence of obesity/overweight. Likewise, countries with higher income should have lower levels of undernutrition. This paper tests this hypothesis using macroeconomic data. The paper also analyses the role of income inequality, as measured by the GINI coefficient, as a potential driver of malnutrition. In this case, countries that have high levels of income inequality are expected to have coexistent high levels of both obesity and undernourishment. Results of this analysis show that there is a correlation between income and malnutrition. However, this relationship is weak, with a correlation coefficient of less than 50% for both undernourishment and overweight/obesity. However, the signs are as expected, even when running a simple regression of the variables. Higher national income has a positive relationship with obesity and negative relationship with undernourishment. From the regression, only the coefficient on undernourishment is significant at 5% confidence level. No significant relationship was found between income distribution and malnourishment, even on the extended logistic model. These finding are not realistically surprising. Higher income does not guarantee good nutrition, although poorer countries are expected to have high level of undernourishment. Also, there is a friction in the response of undernutrition to growth in GDP. Given the low-income elasticity of demand for food, higher income is not expected to be strongly linked to obesity. This could also be an explanation for the low response of malnutrition to income inequalities, although this latter relationship needs to be tested further with data sets of longer duration, in a time series approach. As such, it is important to lobby governments to mainstream food and nutrition security in other initiatives that increase national income, and to promote direct interventions that reduce the prevalence of undernourishment as part of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This will ensure that high national income translates to reduction in malnutrition prevalence across countries.

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