The Nutrition Africa Investor Forum (NAIF), a first-of-a-kind event, hosted by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), in partnership with Royal DSM, the SUN Business Network (SBN) and African Business magazine, has confirmed plans to position nutrition as a promising new investment area for the continent.
More than 200 delegates, including dealmakers, entrepreneurs and investors are expected to meet at the Investor Forum on October 16th and October 17th on World Food Day in Nairobi, Kenya, to explore partnerships, access business finance and enter new markets.
GAIN was launched at the UN in 2002 to tackle the human suffering caused by malnutrition.
Royal DSM is a purpose-led, global science-based company active in nutrition, health and sustainable living, while SBN is a group that mobilises business to support its movement to scale up nutrition.
Over the two days, selected Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from across Africa will have opportunities to participate in the first ever Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition as well as The Nutrition Dealroom to meet venture capitalists and business financiers to improve their access to finance.
The event will bring together leaders from commerce, agri-food, development agencies, academia along with investors to share their experiences, present research results, explore collaborations and spark new ideas – all with the aim of developing new projects and attracting investment for high-impact nutrition businesses.
The Forum comes at a time when malnutrition affects millions of children across the world. Africa alone has estimated that 58.7 million children under the age of five are stunted – having a low height for a given age – and 13.8 million who are wasting – low weight for a certain height.
The Forum argues that stunted children today will lead to stunted economies tomorrow. In fact, African nations lose between 1.9% and 16% of the gross domestic product (GDP) annually to undernutrition due to increased mortality, absenteeism, chronic illnesses, and lost productivity.
It has emerged that governments alone cannot address this issue.
Experts insist that private sector investment is key to tackle this challenge. In fact, the nutrition sector offers tremendous opportunities to businesses.
Fokko Wientjes, vice president of nutrition in emerging markets and public-private partnerships at Royal DSM states that there is a central role for business in tackling malnutrition in Africa.
“As scaling up nutrition action delivers at least $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent, nutrition-sensitive capital investments along the entire food value chain are likely to represent a tremendous purpose-driven investment opportunity. We will fundamentally integrate SDG 1 (poverty reduction) with SDG 2 (hunger & nutrition) by producing locally; Africa nourishes Africa,” he explained in a recent address.
Mr. Wientjes revealed that Africa’s demographic dividend is also an opportunity.
“There are more than 1 billion people in the current African consumer market. This is expected to increase to more than 2 billion by 2050. With 226 million people aged between 15 and 25 years, the continent also has the youngest population in the world. This represents enormous potential: a young, growing African consumer market that is more health-conscious, favouring nutritious and healthy foods. Emerging markets are the fastest urbanizing countries in the world. They are moving away from subsistence and smallholder farming and with that separating the producer from the consumer,” he continued.
SMEs, along with smallholder farmers, make up the bulk of the actors in the food system in developing and emerging markets. They play a key role as input suppliers, off-takers, processors, and distributors, which furthermore creates jobs and enhances regional economic growth.
Yet, barriers to accessing finance mean that agri-food SMEs are not achieving their full potential in developing and scaling up market-based solutions that can improve the consumption of safe and nutritious foods.
“We have a great opportunity to close that gap,” explained Dr. Lawrence Haddad, GAIN’s Executive Director.
“By creating a sustainable food value chain and working through local agrifood industry SMEs, to ensure that nutritious foods are more accessible, affordable, and aspirational. To help this cause, GAIN has recently launched a Nutritious Foods Financing Program which aims to build and maintain an investable pipeline of opportunities among agrifood SMEs, linking this to investors, leveraging blended finance options to help de-risk private investments, and providing technical assistance to investees,” he said.
The Forum will also be host to two engagement channels to facilitate partnerships between high-impact nutrition businesses and venture capitalists and financers.
The first engagement channel will be known as the Nutrition Dealroom and will bring investors face-to-face with established small and medium growing businesses.
The second engagement will be an event dubbed the Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition, which aims to showcase investment opportunities presented by SMEs working to improve access to nutritious food.
“Through years of experience working with African partners and governments, I am convinced that if we grow and support high impact businesses in food systems in Africa, we will be able to make inroads to reducing malnutrition. The potential is huge if we can get the investment recipe right,” Dr. Haddad concluded.