The humanitarian case for investing in nutrition in Africa is clear. For example, despite great advances, no African country is on course to reach the UN target of ending childhood malnutrition by 2030. Yet, as delegates learned at the recent Nutrition Africa Investor Forum (NAIF) in Nairobi, to drive meaningful change, nutrition needs more than a humanitarian pitch--it must demonstrate economic potential in order to attract the private sector.
Highlighting the importance of unlocking investments across the nutrition value chain, Fokko Wientjes, vice president, nutrition in emerging markets at DSM 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."
Nutrition is very much a commercial sector in its infancy. The challenge for those looking to improve nutrition is how to clearly define the sector and create a finance ecosystem that can support both the short and long-term needs of nutrition companies.
"A lot of people who invest in nutrition aren't investing in nutrition from their perspective. They're investing in agriculture, in logistics, or even solar technology," Dominic Schofield, president for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) Canada, told delegates.
According to investment advisory firm Valoral, the number of investment funds that specialise in food and agriculture increased from 38 to 446 between 2005 and 2017. However, very few of these funds deploy capital with the stated intention of boosting nutrition. Defining the sector is therefore key to laying the groundwork for nutrition-led investment.
The report Fueling the Business of Nutrition, which was presented at the forum by the Harvard Kennedy School, suggests two ways in which the sector can take shape. The first is to provide a working definition of nutritious food, which is given in part as "a food that... provides beneficial nutrients (such as vitamins, major and trace minerals, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber) and minimizes potentially harmful elements". Second is to identify and map businesses with investment potential in the nutrition space.
The nutrition value chain already includes a great diversity of actors, opening up a range of possibilities for investors offering...