Sahel Consulting and Nourishing Africa held a virtual conference on Monday, 22nd March 2021, to celebrate the launch of a new book titled: Food Entrepreneurs in Africa: Scaling Resilient Agriculture Businesses and discuss the theme – “Preparing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs to Transform Africa’s Food Ecosystem.” Over 600 participants from across the globe joined this virtual event.
In her welcome address, the author, Mrs. Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, who is also the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting and the Chair of Nourishing Africa, highlighted the journey that led her to write the book, including her experiences as an entrepreneur in the food and agriculture sector and her engagement with entrepreneurs across Africa. She also shared the critical ingredients for starting and scaling successfully and resilient businesses. She underscored the need for Africans to own and drive the transformation of food systems on the continent.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Shawn Baker, Chief Nutritionist of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), emphasized the immense potential of the food and agricultural sector to absorb the teeming population of young people on the continent. He commended the practical how-to approach taken in the book and expressed delight at the inclusion of the much-needed chapters on leadership team management and technology to address the dearth of resources on these areas in the landscape.
Rebecca Marsh, representing the Routledge Publishing team, also commended the practical, action-oriented, can-do approach taken by the book in addressing the most pressing issues of sustainability and resilience from multiple perspectives.
The distinguished panelists – Nathalie Akon Gabala, Regional Director – West, Central and Northern Africa of Mastercard Foundation, Professor Chris Ogbechie, Dean and Professor of Strategic Management of the Lagos Business School (LBS), Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, the Chief Executive Officer of blueMoon Ethiopia, Mr. William Asiko, Managing Director of the Rockefeller Africa Regional Office and Mrs. Mbali Nwoko, Founder and CEO of Green Terrace, South Africa provided valuable insights on the theme – “Preparing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs to Transform Africa’s Food Ecosystem.”
Mrs. Mbali Nwoko highlighted the importance of support networks for key players in entrepreneurial development and her commitment to facilitating access to these networks for emerging entrepreneurs through blogging and podcasting. Prof. Chris Ogbechie also described interventions of the Lagos Business School aimed at attracting young people to the agricultural sector, such as the Agribusiness Management Programme. He further noted the urgent need to enhance the quality of the agriculture curriculum in tertiary institutions to include experiential learning.
Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin expounded on the relevance of accelerators, incubators, and risk capital in building the food ecosystem. She also highlighted the need for a reduced regulatory sandbox to support innovation across the continent and ended with actionable advice to de-risk startups and enable scaling. Addressing some of the ecosystem challenges raised by Dr. Eleni, Mr. William Asiko emphasized the need to create an enabling environment for startups to thrive by instituting policies that are pro-small businesses. He noted that the Rockefeller Foundation had set up an accelerator fund to support SMEs at the idea inception and development stage and an ag-energy initiative to ensure affordable and sustainable energy solutions to entrepreneurs in the sector. On a conclusive note, Nathalie Akon Gabala highlighted the correlation between agriculture and the implementation of the Young Africa Works strategy of the Mastercard Foundation aimed at unlocking dignifying and fulfilling work for 30 million young Africans, particularly, young women by 2030. She emphasized the role of the Mastercard Foundation as a convener in bringing together young people, educational institutions, and policymakers to unlock the potential of the food and agriculture sector across the continent.
In his review of the book, Dr. Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), commended the practical approach taken to guide entrepreneurs in the food sector. In his words, “…simply put, it is probably the best book I have ever read on this topic. I will make sure it is widely available to all of my staff at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. I will urge my colleagues and my partners to read it, learn from it, share it, critique it and critically act on it and I urge you to do the same.”
Mrs. Tito Aderoju, the founder of Oryx Foods, also shared her thoughts on the book, calling it a Mini-Masters in African Agribusiness. She emphasized the need for educated Africans to embrace entrepreneurship and proffer sustainable solutions to the continent’s problems, stating that the book could serve as an excellent guide for navigating the terrain.
Ife Olorunnipa, a Consultant at Sahel Consulting, announced that the book sales proceeds would be devoted to Sahel’s Corporate Shared Values (CSV) program, focused on providing training, internships, and scholarships for students and funding nutrition-focused interventions across Nigeria. She shared that copies of the book could be purchased through Sahel Consulting, Routledge, Amazon or via the link: www.sahelconsult.com/feia – Food Entrepreneurs in Africa: Scaling Resilient Agriculture Businesses – Sahel Consulting
In her closing remarks, Ify Umunna, the program lead for Nourishing Africa and primary researcher for the book, celebrated Ndidi Nwuneli’s commitment to innovation, knowledge sharing, and impact. She expressed optimism and excitement about the book’s impact on youth, aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs and policymakers, and in ensuring the transformation of the food and agriculture sector on the African continent.