Income elasticities for food, calories, and nutrient across Africa: A meta-analysis
This paper (PDF) by the Food Policy Journal aims to provide better understanding of the relationship between income growth and the demand for different types of food, nutrients and calories in Africa by conducting a meta-analysis of income elasticity estimates. The sample shows a large heterogeneity in income elasticities, which is explained by differences in data and methodology in primary studies. Almost all income elasticities reported are positive, suggesting that Africa has not reached the saturation point, and that policies aimed at increasing household income can still contribute to increasing calorie consumption and reducing hunger. The positive effect of income holds for all food and nutrient categories, although elasticities are typically smaller for basic calorie-rich food items (cereals, legumes, tubers) and nutrients (carbohydrates) and larger for those food and nutrient groups typically having a smaller share in expenditures. Increasing income will likely contribute to more diversified diets, but it is not clear if these diets will be healthier. The results suggest that economic growth in Africa will be associated with more nutritionally diverse diets, but also greater intakes of fats and sugars, as is observed in many rapidly growing developing countries, raising concerns of over- in addition to undernutrition. Hence, income-oriented policies still have a major role to play in fighting hunger and undernutrition in Africa, especially in the poorest countries. Results also point to the risk of excessive intakes of fats and sugars, which calls for targeted policies and programs to promote nutritionally valuable and healthy diets. Finally, the study highlights the high dispersion in income elasticity estimates for Africa and the high concentration of estimates for a small number of countries. There is need for more and better demand studies that are based on recent, detailed, country-specific and carefully collected micro-level consumption data, to provide reliable income elasticity estimates to improve food demand projections.