A Partnership to Boost Africa’s Food Security

January 28, 2016
Bobby NeptuneChamwino Super Sembe Supply accountant Adelina Shirima at the company's mill near Dodoma, Tanzania.

Outside the Tanzanian city of Dodoma, the leaders of Chamwino Super Sembe Supply had ambitious goals: they wanted to expand operations, make their mill more profitable, and provide fortified flour to more customers. But translating that vision into reality was a challenge. Among other things, Chamwino lacked a business plan, making it impossible to chart the way forward or access the loans needed to expand and improve operations.

Across much of Africa, the food-processing industry has faced significant challenges, which has had a profound impact on millions of people across the continent. The sector’s small- and medium-sized firms, like Chamwino, often lack the technical capabilities or business acumen to provide safe, high-quality products for the local market. With imported foods often priced too high, local consumers cannot meet their nutritional needs. Meanwhile, smallholder farmers across Africa have missed out on the stable, profitable markets that a more robust local food-processing industry would provide.

Feed the Future and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) have aligned to build the capacity of local companies in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. The idea is to strengthen the high-potential food processors—millers, bakers, pasta-makers, baby-food companies, etc.—at the center of the food supply chain. PFS is a nonprofit organization that links the technical and business expertise of volunteer employees from global businesses like Minnesota-based General Mills and Cargill, The Hershey Company, based in Pennsylvania, and European-based Royal DSM and Buhler, to small food processors and millers in the developing world.  

This partnership allows experts from leading global food companies to provide African food processors with personalized advice and guidance—much of which comes remotely, allowing for greater reach and impact. Volunteers from PFS members, supported by staff from TechnoServe, the implementing organization, help local companies make their operations more efficient, reduce spoilage, improve marketing, roll out new product lines, and more.

The impact can be seen across all five countries. In just five years of operation, the alliance has supported over 600 food companies, with more than 120 of them receiving customized consulting. These consulting efforts have helped to make more than 22 additional metric tons of nutritious foods, such as corn-soy blends and ready-to-use therapeutic food, available to local consumers. The assisted processors and mills have helped secure or sustain markets for 891,000 smallholder farmers who sell their crops to these companies.

Chamwino was one of the companies supported by the PFS-TechnoServe partnership. A volunteer from Cargill, a business analyst from TechnoServe, and an accountant from Chamwino collaborated with "seamless communication and collaboration" to co-develop a business plan.

PFS and TechnoServe supported the company through the development of a maize and sunflower market analysis and a refined business plan template complete with a business overview, mission and vision statement, company objective, SWOT business analysis, region-specific maize market analysis, marketing and sales strategies, and past financials. The team of three incorporated Chamwino-specific information into the standard business plan template, resulting in a final product that exceeded expectations. Armed with this business plan, along with new knowledge from these additional interventions and financial and operational guidance, Chamwino's leaders were able to secure loans of $250,000, which would be used to invest in improved storage and milling infrastructure. 

Now, Chamwino is selling fortified maize flour in districts it had never reached before.

This kind of impact is only possible through a public-private partnership in which each member contributes something unique: the business sector brings technical and business expertise; the public sector brings resources and an expansive network; and the implementing partner brings specialized knowledge of the local food-processing sectors. The impact was intensified through innovations such as the focus on processors, who are at the center of the food value chain, the sharing of expertise between international food corporations and small African food companies, and the use of technology to allow that expertise to be shared remotely. This approach was honored at the prestigious Concordia Summit, and was highlighted when President Obama visited one of the alliance’s clients in Ethiopia, Faffa Food Share Company, during his visit last July.

The collaboration will only deepen its impact in the coming years. With the addition of The Hershey Company in 2015, Partners in Food Solutions will expand to Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, benefiting more food processors, more consumers, and more farmers.