Leading business leaders, policy makers and prominent development campaigners joined over 200 delegates to launch the first ever Nutrition Africa Investor Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, today.
High-level representatives from the World Bank, European Commission, International Finance Corporation, Kenya Commercial Bank, Graça Machel Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joined the high-level gathering focused on unlocking the business potential of small and medium enterprises working to improve the nutritional quality of the food system across Africa.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), a Swiss Foundation, and Royal DSM – a purpose-led global science-based company in nutrition, health and sustainable living – are co-hosting this drive to generate greater investments to improve nutrition in Africa.
During the day, US$82 million worth of investment opportunities were explored by over 60 fast-growing small and medium (SMEs) enterprises, who often face challenges accessing affordable finance. While micro businesses have funders but not scale, and large companies find attracting investment easy, it is the missing middle – small and medium growing businesses – that find it difficult to attract investment. The forum met this challenge by hosting a platform for over 60 companies from across Africa to connect with investors.
Opening the Forum, Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania H. E. Jakaya Kikwete, a leading member of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement working to end malnutrition across the world, encouraged greater public, private and third sector collaboration to address this pressing challenge for Africa, commenting: “The nutrition agenda is a key driver of development.” He said. “Dealing effectively with malnutrition and its attendant problems is a cardinal development imperative.
Nutrition related problems have a direct bearing to economic growth and development of a nation. If there is no change or improvement in stunting and wasting among children and, anaemia among women, and iodine deficiency, a nation is bound to lose a lot in future productivity.” The former president’s homeland has won widespread praise for government policies that have been effectively tackling malnutrition.
He also urged Governments to play a critical and overarching role in addressing the nutrition challenges facing nations. “Governments have to develop good agriculture, nutrition and food security policies, as well as take appropriate measures and actions to ensure implementation of those policies,” he added.
Malnutrition is a massive problem in Africa, stressed, Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, GAIN, who is being awarded the World Food Prize today. “Businesses have to be part of the solution for malnutrition in Africa,” he said.
“The big problem most businesses face, especially the small and medium-sized ones when it comes to engaging in the market, is that they lack access to finance. GAIN works with businesses to develop their deal flows and their business case and then link them to investors. This is the first real effort within Africa to make it easier for businesses to provide nutritious food by making it more readily available, affordable and accessible.”
As part of this work, the organisation partnered with the UN World Food Programme to hold the first SUN Business Network Pitch Competition on the continent. The finals, held at the forum, saw 21 companies showcasing their work to tackle nutrition following national competitions in Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia involving 450 businesses.
Highlighting the importance of unlocking investments across the nutrition value chain, Fokko Wientjes, Vice President of Nutrition in Emerging Markets said, “With 30-40% stunted children in Africa there is an urgent need to make nutritious foods widely available, affordable but most importantly aspirational in the eyes of the consumer. We, at DSM are investing in aspirational nutrition to deliver safe and nutritious foods for all.”
The forum’s Nutrition Dealroom, which brought investors face-to-face with established fast growing businesses working to improve access to nutritious food, won praise from Mr. Wientjes. “The forum offers investors the chance to obtain a unique overview of selected investment opportunities across the value chain and identify outstanding commercial opportunities.” He added the Pitch Competition would help build a pipeline of quality ‘nutrition investments’ for future years, stimulating the next generation of entrepreneurs in Africa in the field of Nutrition.
There are opportunities for business in sectors ranging from technology to logistics to make a difference in the nutrition sector. Discussing the use of technology in growing nutrition business, Rachel Kabuyah, Grants and Partnership, Manager, Twiga Foods, said, Twiga Foods uses mobile technology to link smallholder farmers with informal retailers – to bring fresh fruit and veg to low-income consumers by making nutritious food affordable and accessible.