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World worries over malnutrition in Africa

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More than 200 delegates, including dealmakers, entrepreneurs and investors, will meet at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum (NAIF) to discuss how to position nutrition as a promising new investment area.

The meeting holding in Nairobi on October 16-17 – World Food Day – is to explore partnerships, access business finance and enter new markets.

Over these 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.

NAIF is 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.

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.

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.

There is no doubt 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.

Governments alone cannot address this issue. Private sector investment is key to tackle this challenge. In fact, the nutrition sector offers tremendous opportunities to businesses.

There is a central role for business in tackling malnutrition in Africa, explains Fokko Wientjes, vice president of nutrition in emerging markets and public-private partnerships at Royal DSM.

“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.”

Africa’s demographic dividend is also an opportunity, Mr. Wientjes reveals,

“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.”

In fact, 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,” explains 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 Programme 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”.

The Forum will also be host to two engagement channels to facilitate partnerships between high-impact nutrition businesses and venture capitalists and financiers. (NAN)

Africa speaks

Making Peace with Nigeria – Sanyade Okoli

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By

Sanyade Okoli, Chief Executive Officer of Alpha African Advisory Limited.

Sometimes countries hurt us, whether we are conscious of it or not. And we, in our own way,
respond accordingly. We respond from a place of hurt. Usually unconsciously.

Let me use myself as an example to explain what I mean. I “have” three countries – Sierra Leone, the UK, and now Nigeria. As at today, I have spent approximately a third of my life in each of these countries in the order listed. And each, in their own way, has hurt me. To varying extents, but hurt me nevertheless.

For now, I would say that Sierra Leone has hurt me the least. I left as a teenager and have such wonderful memories of my growing up there that the pain it caused me is not as evident. Having said this, as I write this, painful memories of experiences post leaving home (e.g. family members having to leave as refugees in the 1997 troubles) are slowly bubbling to the top. Hmmmm….. A story for another day.

If I am honest with myself, I think that there are also some walls I have built around my heart concerning Sierra Leone (See Just As I Am). As I said to my mum a few years ago, I only have enough emotional bandwidth for one set of West African politics and intrigues and so I have chosen to “face” that of where I live today – Nigeria. As we say here, “I beg, I can’t come and die!”

Then, there is the UK, where I finished my education and started my professional and family lives. Again, in the spirit of honesty, I think I only appreciated the extent to which the UK had become “my home” when I moved to Nigeria . But it hurt me. Because I was older when I lived there its wounds are more obvious to me. I was saying to a close friend just the other day how I didn’t miss that feeling of “Is it because I am black?” when a random stranger does something to upset you. Sometimes the question is founded, sometimes it is completely unfounded. It stems from that low-level lingering angst as a result of feeling that you don’t fully belong and knowing that there are many others who also see you that way – “a foreigner”.

And last, but no means least, there is Nigeria. I will camp on Nigeria to illustrate my point, but I invite you to swap Nigeria for the country that is most relevant to you as you read my reflections.

Nigeria, my new home! Hmmm… I call Lagos, where I live, an “acquired taste” and I acquired
the taste many years ago. Let’s just say that I can now “say with my chest”, “Naija for life!”
But oh how “Naija” has hurt me! The cuts of Nigeria run deep and have felt unrelenting.

As much as I have come to love Nigeria, it often feels like it has been a one-sided relationship; unrequited love. As some people put it in a WhatsApp group I am on, “Nigeria feels like an abusive husband. He keeps hurting you, but you stay nevertheless.” Sigh….

After years of frustrations, disappointments, discouragements, and unmet expectations I
concluded that “Nigeria does not yield its fruit easily”.

But then again, why should he? Though I say I love Nigeria, have I always treated him with love.

Do I forgive him quickly and easily when I feel he has “let me down again” or do I hold on to
grudges? Do I harbour feelings of low-level resentment that colour how I see the country? Do I speak about Nigeria with positive uplifting words or do I pull the country down with my
mouth?

Are my day to day actions part of the solution or part of the problem?

Could it be that Nigeria is a wounded giant? Wounded by his past experiences; not least
colonisation, civil war and successive military governments. Could it be that how I continue to treat Nigeria rubs salt on his wounds instead of the much-needed healing balm? Could it be that, like any wounded giant would, Nigeria lashes out to protect himself?

So, if I say I love Nigeria, I had to ask myself the question, “What would love do?” I could think of no better standard to use to reflect on this than the biblical scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand
its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

When I look at God’s standard of love, I realise that Nigeria has failed me no more than I have failed him. I haven’t loved him the way I should, and in turn, he too has not shown me the love that I desire.

A few years ago, as I joined a group to pray for Nigeria the Lord showed me that I was holding unforgiveness towards the country. As a result, my bitterness towards the country was hindering me in many ways, not least my prayers for the country.

I repented at that time and forgave Nigeria for all the ways he had hurt me. Unfortunately, despite me forgiving the country, he is still “grappling with some issues” and has hurt me a bit more since then . But guess what, I am sure that I too have hurt him in that time as well.

What to do? I must forgive Nigeria again and make peace with him. I must keep forgiving Nigeria and making peace with him until we stop hurting each other or I go to be with the Lord – whichever is soonest . You see, I know that I am called to be in Nigeria at this time. I therefore have no desire to step out of my call and leave because if I do so, I not only leave Nigeria, but I step out of my destiny. God forbid!!

If you too feel like you need to go through the process of “making peace” with whatever country you are in, some suggested steps are outlined below. It’s a combination of reflections and actions. Like so many healing processes, it is a journey and not an event. Take your time through this. Don’t rush the process, and keep revisiting it as, sadly, you are bound to hurt each other again . There is a Krio saying that speaks to this: “teet en tongue mus jam”. That is to say, by virtue of the fact that the teeth and tongue are permanently in such close proximity, from time to time the teeth will hurt the tongue.

Also Read Close The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

As you go through the suggested process, I need you to remember that a nation is the sum total of its parts – you and me and the structures, systems and policies we institute and implement – explicitly or implicitly.

Happy Reconciliation!

Reconciliation process

1. Forgive your nation

Reflections

Ask yourself the following questions:

• What lies have I believed about my nation?

• How do I really feel about my nation? When I think of the country, what feelings are
evoked?

• Why do I feel like this about my nation? What have been the negative experiences that
have brought about these feelings?

• In what other ways do I feel my nation has let me down or hurt me?

Action

• Forgive your nation for all the ways He has hurt you.

• Let go of all the lies you have believed about Him and the negative emotions you’ve held
towards him.

2. Seek your nation’s forgiveness

Reflections

• What seeds have I sown into my nation through my thoughts, words, and actions?

• How does my nation feel about the way I have treated him?

• What are the fruits of the seeds that I have sown into my nation?

• What are the fruits in my life and in the lives of others?

Action

• Apologies to your nation for all the ways you have hurt him and ask him to forgive you.

3. Move forward together

Reflections

• What do I need to do differently with respect to my nation – in thoughts, words, and deeds?

Action

• Ask God for a picture of how He sees your nation and write down the vision that comes
to your mind.

• Draw up a SMART* action plan for how you will better engage with your nation going
forward.

• Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

Postscript

My reference to some people feeling like Nigeria is an abusive husband that they choose to stay with by no means suggests that I subscribe to the view that those who find themselves in abusive marriages should “forgive and forget”. Absolutely not! That, is a story for another day. It merely expresses the depth of pain some people feel with reference to Nigeria.

Author: Sanyade Okoli is a senior finance professional and the Chief Executive Officer of Alpha African Advisory Limited based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is also an Analyst on Arise TV’s Global Business Report show and recently started an inspirational blog, Just As I Am.

Instagram @sanyadeokoli

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Africa speaks

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at The Workplace

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Diversity: We all deserve the opportunity to work in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment, where we can achieve our potential. In this article, I will be providing you with tips on how to build an environment that encourages fairness, variety and the feeling of belonging amongst your employees.

What is Equality Diversity and Inclusion?

It is one thing to attach the equality, diversity and inclusion clause to every job advert (pay it lip service) but it is another thing to actually practice it.

Equality for me means equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants irrespective of race, gender, religion etc.

Diversity on the other hand, is the variety of people in your workforce. This means people of different ages, religions, ethnicities, people with disabilities, and both men and women.

Inclusion just means that team members feel valued and carried along at work. 

The steps in building a work environment where behaviors support equality, diversity, and inclusion is what I will cover in this article, but if you are aware your business needs to improve in this area, these seven tips will be a good starting point.

Create a standard/ unbiased work policy

The first step to building an unbiased workforce is creating a policy that states clearly how the business supports and treats everyone fairly, what kind of behavior is expected of each team member, discrimination and the penalty if found guilty. There should be an action plan including what steps will be taken to make sure the policy is put into everyday practice.

Project the right brand 

It is very key that your brand messaging, policies and communications consistently represent the company’s attitude towards an equal and fair workplace. Project your company to show the diversity amongst your team, host events and webinars that advertise the equality and inclusiveness in your culture.

Broaden recruitment/talent sourcing

Hiring people from all kinds of backgrounds widens the range of thinking that takes place in your office. When hiring new staff, you should advertise widely and give room for anyone qualified regardless of background to have a fair chance at the recruitment process. A good example is saying that applications from Northerners and candidates with disabilities are welcome. Diversity presents a room full of unique ideas.

Switch up the culture 

Research shows that people want to work for employers with good employment practices. How are you showcasing this diverse yet inclusive workplace? To stand out, it is important to design a culture that allows everyone to feel valued, respected, and recognized. Regular employee updates covering company performance and future plans, and with an opportunity for two way interaction needs to be a regular agenda item.

Inform and Train

Ensure all new recruits are trained on the value of a diverse workforce and how to ensure inclusivity and equality. Team members are constantly assessed by ensuring that performance reviews include questions on inclusivity, equality and diversity. Managers should support diversity, and not only be trained in legislation but also on potential biases and how to avoid them. 

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Leadership Accountability

Your leadership team is key to forming the culture of the business. Ensure those team members in leadership roles exhibit inclusive behaviours and promote communication. Consider a specific leadership module that focuses on a zero-tolerance approach to any kind of workplace discrimination. Line managers and HR business partners have a duty to actively seek out employees who may be becoming excluded and attempt to correct this. 

Promote inclusive employee programs

Activities and events that encourage inclusion in the workplace, such as:

  • Black History Month
  • Mental Health Awareness Week

It is vital that we all are aware that just saying that you are a diverse and inclusive business is not enough. It isn’t about the policies you have in place, but more about promoting a company culture of inclusiveness where everyone feels valued and supported to do their best work.

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COVID-19 and what it means for African Millennials: The concept of the 7th Generation

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By

Kevin Mutiso

My grandmother passed away during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was Easter Sunday. She was our matriarch. If it were normal times, we would have had a huge function in her honor. But these were not normal times and she had to be buried within two days and only 15 people could attend. The silver lining, however, was that this small function necessitated the most intimate and important memories of my life and family.

During our meal, my father and uncles, her sons- she only had boys, began to reminisce. They shared some emotional stories and some hilarious ones, some so funny that for a brief moment we forgot we had come to bury our matriarch. One story, however, captured my imagination. It was the story of how my grandmother made decisions after her husband, my grandfather had passed away in 1969. She was not as educated as he was, and she was a woman with five young sons. Her vision was to ensure that her children would go to university and prosper in their adulthood. She, therefore, made very critical decisions about her children and they lived in one of the strictest households that have ever been described to me.

She was also the sole breadwinner and had to feed all five mouths and a worker who would look after these five sons when she worked during the day. She was everything from a prison warder, a bar owner, farm owner, and eventually a small-scale commodities trader, as she would consolidate maize harvests in the village and hire a truck to sell to clients in arid areas in Kenya. She was industrious, hardworking, and very strategic. On this sad afternoon, I understood the concept of the 7th Generation.

The 7th generation is a concept from a Native American tribe known as the Iroquois (pronounced i – ruh – kwoy). When the Iroquois council of elders had to make a difficult and critical decision, they would invoke the concept of the 7th generation. This concept states that the current members of the council would represent an imagined member of their family seven generations into the future and would make decisions based on how it would impact that imagined member of the family.

My grandmother’s decisions freed me from poverty and gave me the privilege of pursuing entrepreneurship and in FinTech. Her decisions allowed me to travel the world in pursuit of knowledge and capital. She would laugh about my exploits and she would always give glory to God even when, like now, we are struggling as the economic impacts of the COVID 19 Pandemic make our economic endeavors uncertain.

I started to think about my own critical decisions – who my imagined family member, seven generations, from me would look like and what would the world be like? Seven generations from me are 90 years into the future. The year is 2110 and Independent Kenya is 147 years old. I started to think about all the data that was out there about me, what would they say about me and my generation, would we be the like the Lost Generation who, according to Wikipedia, are described as the social generation cohort that came of age during World War I. “Lost” in this context refers to the “disoriented, wandering, directionless” spirit of the many war’s survivors in the early post-war period. Or would we be like the baby boomers who are considered the most successful generation of all time?

The COVID 19 Pandemic has changed the world forever and anyone who claims to be able to predict what will happen in the future is lying. However, we know some things now as fact. Some of the jobs and businesses that had to shut down will never come back and at the same time many businesses will thrive. We also know that there is an opportunity to shape our future in ways that were until this point unimaginable.

I would like to make a case for the Kenyan and African millennials to consider a name change. The African millennial is similar to their counterparts in western countries in many ways, but their context is extremely unique.

This generation grew up in a New Africa. An Africa that was now run by a second or third cohort of African leaders. The independence struggle was something they read in history books and were taught in class. In this Africa, indigenous Africans were getting wealthy. Many who had moved from the village to the city, became wealthy and could now afford cars, nice houses, and other fancy things. What seemed to be the sure route to this kind of success, was education. A university degree in many African families is a sign of prestige. As a result, many African families aspired to take their children to university and the number of Kenyan university degree holders moved from a few hundred in the 1960s to over 500,000 today.

In addition to this, a cultural change was happening as a result of advances in technology. Radios became almost ubiquitous in urban households by the late 1980s and TVs by the mid-2000s. This African millennial was being exposed to urban western culture through musical genres like hip hop, sitcoms, magazines, and western sports culture. As a result, this African millennial shares several cultural touchpoints with their western counterpart and a good example of this is the cult-like following of Premier League teams like Manchester United and Chelsea here in Kenya.

This generation has networks of relatives across the world due to the huge “brain drain” that happened in the 1980s and 1990s as a result of the massive emigration of educated Africans to different parts of the world seeking a better life for their families. This generation was raised by the post-colonial generation. The post-colonial generation were children of the pre-independence generation who fought for our freedom.

So what name should we give ourselves? By invoking the 7th generation concept, and as a representative of an imagined member of my family 90 years from today, I would like to propose the name Generation Hope.

Generation Hope because we should be remembered in history for being the generation that was optimistic about the future and did not let major setbacks like COVID-19 knock them out, but instead spurred them to think outside the box to ensure that the next normal was a better place for everyone.

The concept of the 7th generation makes decision making slightly more difficult because some of the solutions will be some of the toughest to implement, and some initiatives will take sacrifices just like my grandmother had to make for me and my family.

In addition to proposing a name, I would like to propose a goal for Generation Hope within my context. We should have many goals, but I am an entrepreneur and I want to represent the entrepreneur in my family 90 years from today. For them to be successful they will need a more efficient market for them to trade their goods or services. An efficient market has two characteristics; stability, and fairness. The rules should not be skewed to one player, and one should be able to plan their business far into the future.

In that regard, I would like to propose three simple metrics to gauge our progress. Economists use GDP per capita to compare the living standards of a person in a country and the Gini coefficient that measures the wage gap between the richest and the poorest earners in a country. The Gini coefficient is a number always between 0 and 1. If the number is 0, then everyone in the country earns the same amount of money and is known as perfect equality and if the number is 1, only one person earns everything and is known as perfect inequality.

Kenya’s GDP per capita as of 2019 was KES 170,000 (USD 1,700), which technically means that the average Kenyan has a standard of living equivalent to KES 14,166 (USD 141) per month and Kenya’s Gini coefficient is 0.42. For comparison’s sake, The USA’s GDP per capita is slightly over KES 6 million (USD 60,000) and the average American has a living standard of about KES 540,000 (USD 5,400) per month and USA’s Gini coefficient is 0.39. Kenya’s Gini co-efficient is ok but could be better and we should aspire to be closer to Sweden’s which is 0.27.

However, our GDP per capita is too low. We need to move it up to at least KES 1.2 million (USD 12,000) so that the average standard of living is KES 100,000 (USD 1,000) per month. China’s GDP per capita was KES 100,000 (USD 1,000) in the year 2000. Today it is over KES 1 million (USD 10,000). So this is not a monumental task, it has been done before.

We need a third metric. Unfortunately, I have not found a third metric that takes into consideration what the other two fail to capture; emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing. If you have ideas, let us start sharing them. This metric should help us re-imagine our society for the better forever. This metric shall be part of Generation Hope’s legacy.

Also Read: These two Africans are helping businesses and individuals spend less time doing expenses with Xpensi

As Generation Hope enters its most economically productive years and as we move into higher levels within our areas of expertise, may we do our part and ensure that by 2040 we improve our GDP per capita to over 1.2 million shillings (USD 12,000) and improve our Gini coefficient to 0.25. May we set the example for future generations and teach them how to invoke the concept of the 7th generation when making the critical and important decisions of their time.

The last conversation I had with my grandmother was in late February this year when she had come for a check-up with her doctors. She was staying with my parents. My daughter and I went to pay them a visit. It was a warm day, so she was basking in the sun. I joined her. I said hello and she acknowledged my presence. She did not ask how I did or ask me when I was going to get married as she usually did. This time she said, “Kevin, vumilia!” Which translated from Swahili means, “Kevin, persevere.” She then added how hard it had been for her when my grandfather had passed, she said, “Imagine being a single mother of 5 boys, one few months old in those days?” “Vumilia, itakuwasawa!” “Persevere, it shall be alright!”

It shall not be easy, but if you are between the age of 25 and 40 in 2020, you are part of Generation Hope. As you make those critical decisions about your life and those of your children, invoke the concept of the 7th generation and make the best decision for that imagined member of your family and remember that whatever you do, it will move the average standard of living of your fellow Kenyan to KES 100,000 (USD 1,000) a month. It will be difficult but as my grandmother proved: “We gon be alright!”

If you are part of Generation Hope, I urge you to do two things; firstly share this article with someone in a leadership position and let them know that you are willing to help solve some of the challenges because you will be a leader soon.

Secondly, stand up and be proud to be part of Generation Hope; The generation that came out of COVID 19 stronger and made their world a better place than they found it.

Written by Kevin Mutiso: African, Kenyan, Father, Friend, Entrepreneur.

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