African Harvesters had conversations with the Founder of LEAP Africa and Co-Founder of AACE Food Processing & Distribution, Ndidi Nwuneli in an exclusive interview. She speaks on Social Enteprise & Innovation, Sustainable Agriculture, Food insecurity & Agropreneurship in Africa.
See information on the interview below
Question 1: Can you introduce yourself and what your organization does?
I am a serial social entrepreneur, a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and proud African woman.
Ndidi Nwuneli is the Founder of LEAP Africa, Co-Founder of AACE Food Processing & Distribution, agroprocessing company that partners with smallholder farmers and processes nutritious food made from the best of West Africa’s cereals, herbs and vegetables, and a Director at Sahel Capital Partners & Advisory Ltd., an advisory and consulting firm focused on the agribusiness and nutrition sectors in West Africa.
Ndidi started her career as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, working in their Chicago, New York and Johannesburg Offices.
Ndidi holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree with honors in Multinational and Strategic Management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Ndidi was recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and received a National Honor – Member of the Federal Republic from the Nigerian Government. She was listed as one of the 20 Youngest Power African Women by Forbes. Ndidi serves on numerous international and local boards including Nestle Nigeria Plc., Nigerian Breweries Plc., Globethics.net, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. India, Fairfax Africa Holdings Canada, Royal DSM Sustainability Board, Netherlands and the African Philanthropy Forum.
Ndidi is the author of “Social Innovation in Africa: A Practical Guide for Scaling Impact,” published by Routledge in 2016.
Question 2: What are the commitments of Sahel Consulting & Advisory Ltd and AACE Foods towards the development and transformation of Africa’s Agribusiness sector?
I am actively engaged in Africa’s agribusiness sector through my roles as the co-founder of AACE Foods and Sahel Capital Partners & Advisory Ltd.
The passion and sense of urgency behind the creation of AACE Foods was motivated by three facts. Firstly, according to the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, 37% of Nigerian children under 5 years old are classified as stunted and 18% are considered wasted. This contributes to Nigeria’s high infant mortality or maternal mortality rates in our country.
Second, researchers at the University of Agriculture Abeokuta estimate that 40-60% of the fruits and vegetables grown and harvested by small holder farmers across the county are wasted annually. Third, 90% of the processed food consumed in Nigeria is imported.
AACE Foods aims to directly address the high levels of malnutrition in Nigeria and capitalize on the dearth of local manufactured food products by processing and packaging nutritious food sourced from smallholder farmers within Nigeria, in partnership with community groups and non-profit associations. The company provides support to the farmers, empowering them with training and access to microfinance and storage technology.
AACE Foods offers twelve spices, seasonings and four complementary food for retailers, commercial and institutional buyers, including food processors, caterers, restaurants, hotels, wholesalers and retailers. Our products are sold across Nigeria, in over 100 supermarkets and open air markets. We also supply bulk products to Nigeria’s leading FMGCs who utilize them for producing spices for instant noodles and other foods.
Our complementary food products, Soyamaize, Sosonourish and beans flour address malnutrition, and we have partnered with a range of organizations to distribute these products to communities across Nigeria including families living in internally displaced camps.
As the co-founder of Sahel Consulting, I am also actively involved in unlocking the potential of the agribusiness and nutrition sectors. Our mission is to unlock Africa’s agriculture and nutrition potential through tailored, innovative and market-based research, strategic advisory services, training and project implementation, thereby impacting communities and achieving sustainable growth. Our vision is to be recognised as the most trusted consulting partner and point of reference in the African agriculture and nutrition landscape, integral to building effective and efficient value chains and attaining food security.
Sahel has worked across West Africa, partnering with multinationals, development partners and community based organizations to conduct research, develop strategic interventions, shape policies and implement programmes. We have worked in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Mali and Liberia. We have also focused on a range of value chains including cassava, yam, tomato, maize, chili, tomato, dairy, sorghum, millet, rice and cowpea.
Question 3: What is LEAP Africa’s role in helping Agroperenur in Africa especially youth?
LEAP is committed to inspiring, empowering and equipping the next generation of dynamic, innovative and credible leaders in Africa. Clearly, our youth have a critical role to play in unlocking the potential of African agriculture. As a result, through our three main arms – YouthLEAP, BizLEAP and eLEAP, we interface with young entrepreneurs and social innovators who have an interest in agriculture and are working to transform lives in this sector.
Through our Social Innovators Programme and Awards, we recognize and support young people who are changing their communities. Each year, at least 3 of the 20 SIPA Fellows are engaged in agriculture. In addition, in 2016/2017, LEAP partnered with Africa LEAD, nominating young people for a comprehensive agribusiness and policy training programme held in Abuja and Lagos.
Question 4: What is your take on Nigeria’s level in the Social Enterprise sphere?
The Social enterprise space is Nigeria is vibrant and growing. However, most of the organizations in this space still operate at a very small scale, which is why we largely cannot feel the impact of this third sector, like you would in the United States, Brazil or India. This realization propelled me to write a book in 2016 titled – Social Innovation in Africa: A practical guide for scaling impact. This book published by Routledge and available on Amazon and Laterna Bookshop or the LEAP Africa office in Lagos, was based on my interviews with over 80 stakeholders who have successfully scaled social ventures in Africa. The book reveals the practical steps for scaling and provides resources to support enterprises that would like to scale.
Question 5: Food Security is an issue in Africa. What’s your take on Agropreneurs preparedness towards fighting food security in Africa? What is your advice attaining food sufficiency in Africa?
Food security remains a challenge in Africa, as most of our countries are net importers of food, and Africa remains dependent on imports for some of its most important staples. Over the past seven years, we have seen a radical shift in the agricultural landscape, especially in Nigeria. With the downturn in the global economy and the rapid decline in oil prices, agriculture is now regarded as the “new gold” and there is increasing interest from the public, private and nonprofit sectors and significant investment in the sector.
However, we cannot address food security in Africa without supporting smallholder farmers who dominate the sector, and sadly cultivate less than one hectare of land, and exist on a subsistence level. At Sahel, we are committed to working with private, public and development partners to improve the livelihoods of these farmers by putting them into clusters and exposing them to best practices, new technology, improved inputs such as seeds and crop protection products to increase their productivity and yields. In addition, we are committed to linking them to off-takers and markets, and partners who can work with them improve their harvest and storage techniques and invest in on-farm processing to reduce post-harvest losses, enhance their income potential, their nutritional status and the lives of their entire households.