The federal government and food processing companies have announced new food fortification commitments to improve the country’s nutrition, health and economic development.
This was made known at the Nigerian Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum convened by Aliko Dangote as well as Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who participated via video conference. The forum gathered the leaders from major food industries, accounting for about 70 percent of the market share of fortified wheat flour, edible oil, sugar and salt in Nigeria. These leaders convened for the first time to pledge collective actions to achieve adequate fortification of Nigeria’s major food staples by 2020.
The commitment document, which was made available to newsmen, stated, “Failure to address malnutrition will continue to negatively impact not only the health and well-being of Nigerians, but the country’s economic growth and prosperity. “The forum marks the start of a renewed, business-led effort to combat poor nutrition in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and projected to be the world’s third-most populous country by the year 2050. By committing to high-quality fortification, the industry is taking critical steps to address the lack of access to basic nutrients and vitamins that holds back women’s and children’s health and development.
“The addition of Vitamin A supports a stronger immune system; iodine improves brain development; and iron can significantly reduce problems associated with anaemia, including low-birth-weight babies, maternal deaths, and diminished work capacity.” Meanwhile, Nigerian government representatives vowed to improve the regulatory environment around food fortification, pledging to review potential impediments to greater fortification and increase enforcement and incentive mechanisms. Also, Nigeria’s food industry leaders promised to incorporate food fortification as a key performance indicator in their corporate measurement framework, with regular review and reporting, both at a company level and industry-wide.
Chairman of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Aliko Dangote said, “The initiative to tackle malnutrition is a welcome development. As corporate leaders, we can change this trend and prepare for our future-using tools already at our fingertips. “One of the most powerful solutions for malnutrition is within the food processing industry: the fortification of staple foods such as wheat and maize flour, cooking oil, salt and sugar with essential vitamins and minerals.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also pledged to support fortification efforts and ensure independent progress assessments and annual convenings through 2020.
Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates said, “Nearly 20 years since Melinda and I started our foundation, I have become more convinced than ever that the best investment a country can make is in the health and well-being of its people. And often, the best investments are in simple and scalable advancements. Food fortification is one of those advancements.” While the president and CEO of TechnoServe, William Warshauer noted that “food fortification is the key to improved health and productivity, and Nigeria’s processing companies are the key to food fortification. Given TechnoServe’s business approach to development, we are excited to work with the private sector on such a critical effort to boost development for Africa’s largest population and economy.”