Africa’s first ever Nutrition Investor Forum, a high-profile event for the continent’s food industry, has confirmed plans to build on its momentum and link investors to $82 million worth of business opportunities.
Leading business leaders, policy makers and prominent development campaigners joined over 200 delegates to launch the maiden event in Nairobi, Kenya this week.
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 the drive to generate greater investments to improve nutrition in Africa.
At the just-concluded event, $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.
Opening the Forum, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, 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.
“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, anemia among women, and iodine deficiency, a nation is bound to lose a lot in future productivity,” Kikwete explained.
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.
“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,” he continued.
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 Nutrition in Emerging Markets said, that with 30% to 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.
At the Forum, it emerged that there are opportunities for business in sectors ranging from technology to logistics that can make an impactful, sustainable difference in the nutrition sector.
Malnutrition is a massive problem in Africa, stressed, Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, GAIN, who was awarded the World Food Prize yesterday.
“Businesses have to be part of the solution for malnutrition in Africa,” he said.