Food Safety Investments in East Africa
PUBLISHED ON Sep 1, 2021
LAST UPDATED Sep 1, 2021

Foodborne diseases are a threat to public health. They also impose an enormous economic burden, affect food and nutrition security, and can hinder market access and disrupt livelihoods. In 2017–2018, the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), a public-private initiative hosted by the World Bank, undertook an intensive analysis of recent food safety investments in sub-Saharan Africa. GFSP built a database of projects and interviewed key informants. We reviewed the food safety investment database, and data related to countries in East Africa was extracted.

Fifty-nine projects from 19 donors were analyzed. Project numbers and investments trended up over time, and three to four countries in the region attracted significantly more investment. Most of the projects ran for three to four years. Aflatoxin mitigation and national control systems predominated over other projects. Fifteen projects included consumer education on food safety. Food safety of fresh produce was not a major food safety focus in any of the countries. Animal source foods (ASF) such as meat, fish, and dairy, as well as microbiological hazards, were addressed in all countries except Burundi and South Sudan. Some projects addressed pesticides but not the microbiological hazards that are a major concern in East Africa, as elsewhere. Similarly, the lack of investment in Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) is notable given the burden of cysticercosis in the region.

We also extracted information from 30 key informant interviews held with food safety experts with experience working in East Africa. These confirmed the investment emphasis on exports and strengthening national control systems to support exports. They considered this emphasis relatively successful in supporting exports but noted it had little benefit on the informal sectors that supply most food in East Africa. Their concerns were related to a lack of enforcement of regulations, lack of project follow-up, and failure to address informal markets. They considered gender important and recommended more focus on capacity building, empowering the private sector, raising awareness, and improving governance.

Findings from this study highlight regional investment needs and can be used to lobby for increased donor support, even at the country level. In addition, the GFSP study collected information and opinions from key informant interviews with experts in East Africa. We updated this with information from the authors.