SUN and the private sector: Business networks in Nigeria and Niger
Ambarka Youssoufane is ENN’s West and Central Africa Knowledge Management Specialist. He observed and summarised the Business Network meetings in Nigeria and Niger.
Introduction from ENN’s NEX Editors
The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Business Networks (SBN) were launched in Nigeria and Niger in April and August 2016, respectively; ENN’s knowledge management specialist for West and Central Africa attended the events in order to document and understand the relationship between the SUN Movement and the private sector at the country level. The launch of the SUN Business Networks in both countries aimed to develop terms and an action plan for working with companies. Several private industries and businesses had already committed to supporting nutrition in these countries; the launches aimed to enrol new members.
Private sector engagement and involvement is viewed in the SUN Movement as an essential element of efforts to scale up successful nutrition interventions. The view is that partnerships with business are crucial, since no single entity has sufficient funding, resources, expertise or reach to tackle the complex nutrition challenges that exist today. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have also placed greater emphasis on the role played by the private sector – “The question now is not whether business should engage in sustainable development, but how”.
Yet there is concern about how the private sector, with its incentives aligned around profits, can make a meaningful contribution to development, and specifically nutrition. Areas of the nutrition sector in which conflicts of interest (CoI) have been identified include: the marketing of infant formula; the fortification of staple food; the reformulation of foods; and the delivery of school food and nutrition programmes (see WHO report Addressing and Managing Conflicts of Interest in the planning and delivery of nutrition programmes at country level) (WHO 2016). The SUN Movement has a toolkit for preventing and managing conflicts of interest (SUN 2014), which suggests processes for developing a CoI policy and a risk-based approach to identifying CoI.
Outside SUN, the private sector is heavily involved with humanitarian and development programming in nonfood sectors, e.g. logistics, telecommunications, electronic money transfer, digital communication platforms, etc. These areas of involvement are less at risk of the CoIs identified for food and nutrition.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the SBN co-organised the event in Nigeria. The launch featured extensive discussions about malnutrition in the country, and how business, government and civil society organisations (CSOs) can work together to address the problems.
The event focused on themes such as:
1. How can business join the fight against malnutrition, and what is the business case for investing in nutrition?
2. How do we improve on existing action so as to reach the most vulnerable?
3. What can the SBN do to reduce the financial risk involved in investing in nutrition?
4. How can business shape the way forward with regards to malnutrition?
Opening comments addressed the question: Why do we need business to be part of the solution to malnutrition in Nigeria? Malnutrition has significant negative effects on economic development, particularly in healthcare costs. Over a third of Nigerian children under five are malnourished, while vitamin and mineral deficiencies result in losses of over US$1.5 billion in GDP annually. Adults who are sick are less economically productive, which impacts negatively on the national income.
A panel discussion on business leadership in the fight against malnutrition described Africa as the next frontier, with agribusiness as a major driver of growth. Business can play many roles in supporting nutrition, including: agricultural production, food fortification and biofortification, production and marketing of complementary food and micronutrients, and production of ready-to-use therapeutic food. However, business needs to come together in one platform such as the SBN to discuss issues. Feedback from the global SBN coordinator indicated that businesses need to share the risks of new investments in nutrition, particularly when looking at low-income consumers. How do we convince them to reach down to lower-income consumers? One of the SBN’s roles is to ensure the dissemination of research resources to support businesses.
A second panel, comprising representatives from Dansa Foods, Olam Cocoa Nigeria and Unilever Nigeria, highlighted World Bank data that points to the dire nutrition situation in the country, and the youthfulness of the Nigerian population – the potential of the Nigerian market is huge. Engaging in the SBN is an opportunity for business to create a platform for discussion with government and other stakeholders on issues related to business engagement in nutrition, such as creating demand for nutritious food and providing information on nutrition and consumer behaviours.
Other ideas on SBN strategy shared by participants included:
• Consumer awareness campaigns must engage with new alternative platforms for awareness creation, such as video, social media, etc.;
• There are serious infrastructural and distribution issues to be addressed for food commercialisation;
• Sharing best practices on engagement with farmer families around nutrition are critical; and
• The SBN should consider how to promote youth entrepreneurship in agriculture.
Niger’s SBN launch aimed to elaborate on the role and engagement of the private sector in the development of a business network in the country.
The launch was opened by the president of the Association Afrique Agro Export (AAFEX), a group of agricultural and agri- Food exporters from 16 African countries, including Niger. According to AAFEX, the private sector has a role to play in supporting national nutrition priorities through leveraging its business operations, value chain and social investment resources, innovation and investment. Business can provide technical knowledge and use its marketing ability, skills and technology to support advocacy to resolve nutritional problems in Niger.
The SUN-CSA coordinator urged the SBN to make greater commitments to the well-being of children and women in Niger, and reaffirmed the willingness of Niger’s SUN civil society to assist the private sector in its activities in support of nutrition in the country. Ways in which the private sector can contribute to strengthening nutrition in Niger were identified as:
• Investing in food and agriculture, innovation, increase marketing capacity;
• Food fortification;
• Local market-based approach to develop an adapted response to food need; and
• Work place sensitisation on the importance of nutrition.
Group discussions focused on the role of business in strengthening nutrition and private sector commitments, as well as criteria for membership of the SBN.
The SBN launch continued with a rally in Dosso (Province of Niger) with the objective to promote products of AAFEX member companies and other agri-food companies, and to raise awareness on pregnant and lactating women’s nutrition. Finally, a debate was organised on national television to explain the rationale behind the establishment of the SBN in Niger, the contribution that the private sector can make in the fight against malnutrition, and its commitments to strengthen nutrition in Niger.
The SBNs for Niger and Nigeria were launched to initiate the conversation with the private sector on why and how the business community can join the fight against malnutrition locally and globally. Stakeholders in both countries recognised potential benefits for businesses in economic returns, but also for the energy and innovation that business
can contribute to combatting malnutrition. However, both governments still have to develop clear strategies to ensure that the private sector abides by food production marketing rules and regulations, and to raise awareness of the need to manage and avoid Cols at all stages of private sector engagement in food and nutrition scale-up.
WHO 2016 – Addressing and Managing Conflicts of Interest in the planning and delivery of nutrition programmes at country level www.who.int/nutrition/publications/COI-report/en/
SUN 2014 – The SUN Movement Toolkit for Preventing and Managing Conflicts of Interest. Reference Note March 2014. gsogeneva.ch/wp-content/uploads/Toolkit_ENG_web.pdf
More like this
View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Interview with Mathews Mhuru, Country Coordinator for Zambia's Civil Society Organisation (CSO) SUN...
In this video, Uduak Igbeka the SUN Business Network (SBN) coordinator of Nigeria speaks about her experience with the network. Uduak has an academic background in agricultural...
Alem Abey is the SUN Business Network Advisor in Ethiopia. Alem discusses the process undertaken in the establishment of the soon to be launched SBN in the country and the role...
In this video interview we speak to Ralf Siwiti, the SBN Programme Manager for Zambia based at the World Food Programme (WFP) in Lusaka. Ralf has a background in marketing and...
Judith Kabore is an advocacy officer at the regional office of Action Against Hunger (ACF). Before this, she worked for nine years in the Ministry of Health in Burkina Faso and...
en-net: Recommended Conferences
Seeking recommendations on most meaningful conferences related to emergency nutrition response and/or post-disaster response development programming Apply for learning...
This is an interview with Katia Santos Dias, the Country Director for GAIN in Mozambique and co-convenor of the Mozambique SUN Business Network (SBN). In this interview, Katia...
Enock Musinguzi discusses the successes and challenges of the SUN Business Network in Tanzania. Enock is the GAIN Country Director in Tanzania and co-ordinates the SBN in...
Blog post: The private sector in nutrition - a player by default or choice? Reflections from a multi-stakeholder meeting
I participated in a Round Table organised by South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative SAFANSI In Colombo in June which was titled “Putting the Lens on the...
FEX: Valid Nutrition
Name Valid Nutrition Address Cuibín Farm, Derry Duff, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland Chief Executive Officer: Derek Staveley Phone +353 86 7809541 Chair of Trustees...
This seventh issue of Nutrition Exchange introduces an exciting new phase in the publication's development, as ENN will now be publishing NEX twice a year and will bring...
NEX: The SUN Movement Common Results Framework: Understanding the CRF and lessons learned from five SUN countries
This is a summary of an ENN Review of the SUN Common Results Framework (CRF) written by Tamsin Walters, which brings together background thinking and five examples of country...
Summary of letter1 and responses2,3 A typical example of a shebeen in an informal settlement, Namibia This article raises a number of issues about corporate sponsorship in the...
Mohamed Cheik Levrak is the international REACH facilitator in Chad, building on his REACH experience as the national facilitator in Mauritania. Before that he worked for 17...
Resource: Multi-sectoral coordination for nutrition in Chad: a comprehensive and dynamic multi-stakeholder platform
My name is Ambarka Youssoufane and, as ENN's Regional Knowledge Management Specialist for West and Central Africa, I often visit countries in the sub-region to talk with...
Summary of research1 Location: Global What we know: Worldwide 'nutrition transition', including in low-middle income countries is leading to increasing consumption of...
NEX: A catalyst for scale-up in SUN countries: Experiences of technical assistance for Tajikistan and the Philippines
ENN's SUN Knowledge Management team with contributions from Nutrition International (NI) and Maximising the Quality of Scaling Up Nutrition Plus (MQSUN+) Click here and...
View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici An increasing number of countries are recognising the potential role that parliamentarians can play in...
Charulatha Banerjee, ENN's Asia Regional Knowledge Management Specialist, put questions from the Philippine Coalition of Advocates in Nutrition champions with knowledge of...
NEX: SUN Movement update
September 21 2016 at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York was a significant day for the SUN Movement with the inauguration of its new Lead Group - comprising 29 nutrition...
Reference this page
Ambarka Youssoufane (). SUN and the private sector: Business networks in Nigeria and Niger. Nutrition Exchange 7, January 2017. p15. www.ennonline.net/nex/7/nigeriaandniger