Rose Koffi-Nevry, an economic expert at Nangui Abrogoua University in Côte d'Ivoire, complained on Friday of the socio-economic consequences of domestic food hygiene on development in Africa, calling it an "invisible world" because public authorities seem to be ignoring the scale and negative implications of this phenomenon on development throughout the continent.
A series of household surveys in various African countries has shown that the head of the household consumes at least one meal outside the home, generally in neighbourhood restaurants.
According to the study presented last week during a session on Poverty Reduction at the 7th African Economic Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, although microbial contamination in food can be controlled in the home, it is more difficult to control it in rudimentary restaurants, and these restaurants therefore become channels for the transmission of food-borne infectious diseases.
"When the head of household is infected by a pathogenic microorganism, it affects professional performance and the ability to work, which leads to the drying up of revenue sources for the family," explained Koffi-Nevry.
It was also shown that the control of food-borne infectious diseases through good hygiene practices is of major importance for the development of communities.
In Africa, preliminary results show a prevalence of microorganisms such as coliform bacteria, especially Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella, particularly in poor and isolated areas, according to the same study.
The urgent need to limit economic losses from hygiene-related diseases is dictated by political will, and the sustainable development of communities requires good hygiene practices in the handling of food.
A pragmatic approach is to require governments to reinforce sanitary controls for food and to ensure hygienic quality before consumption, in order to prevent disease and improve consumer health.
Economically, growth in Africa will be accomplished through various reforms, while politically there is a pressing need to consider that the initial phase of poverty is linked to a lack of food.
"It is clear that poor citizens or deprived social classes throughout Africa are unable to access drinking water and soap for handwashing [...]. This has negative implications, with a reduction in productivity and a fall in individual work capacities," argued Koffi-Nevry.
A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that diseases linked to the consumption of food that has been contaminated by microorganisms is still the greatest health problem in the modern world and is a major cause of the reduction in economic productivity.
For their part, the economic experts who met at the 2012 African Economic Conference, which ran from Tuesday, October 30 to Friday, November 2 in Kigali, agreed that the development of Africa will largely be conditioned by an improvement in quality of life for communities in terms of revenue, health, education and general well-being.