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Dangote, Gates partner to reduce malnutrition in Nigeria

Aliko Dangote Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have expressed commitments to reduce malnutrition in Nigeria through improved quality fortification of foods.

They made the pledge during the Food Processing and Nutrition Leadership Forum in Lagos where chief executives of leading food processing companies committed to adequate fortification in major food staples by 2020.

Larry Umunna, Country Director, TechnoServe Nigeria, said in a statement that the Forum marks the start of a renewed, business-led effort to combat poor nutrition in Nigeria.

According to Ummuna, the partnership will address the lack of access to basic nutrients and vitamins that hold back women and children’s health and development.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the initiative was part of the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) project, funded by Gates Foundation and implemented by TechnoServe.

Food fortification is the process of adding micronutrients, especially trace elements and vitamins, so as to improve the food’s nutritional quality and provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health.

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group, said the initiative to tackle malnutrition was 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,” he said.

Dangote said failure to address malnutrition would continue to negatively impact not only the health and wellbeing of Nigerians but the country’s economic growth and prosperity.

Mr Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “In the nearly 20 years since Melinda and I started our foundation, I’ve 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, scalable advancements. Food fortification is one of those advancements,” he said.

Gates pledged to support fortification efforts and ensure independent progress assessments and annual convening through 2020.

Hajia Aisha Abubakar, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, pledged the government committed to improving the regulatory environment around food fortification.

She said the government would review potential impediments to greater fortification and increase enforcement and incentive mechanisms.

William Warshauer, President, TechnoServe, said that Nigeria’s processing companies could drive the actualisation of food fortification which was the key to improved health and productivity.

“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,” he said.

Mr Santoshi Pillai, Managing Director, PZ Wilmar West Africa, pledged processors commitment to ensure that processing procedures align with global best practices in order to win the fight against malnutrition.

 

About Lanre Oyetade

A multiple award winner in Economics and business journalism, Lanre Oyetade has served close to two decades in the media industry, spanning different notable stables, where he is privileged to have risen to the position of a title editor. A masters degree holder in Economics from the University of Lagos and doctoral student at the Babcock University, he is a winner of the prestigious NMMA Capital Market Award for two consecutive years (2004 & 2005), and was also a nominee for the body’s banking and finance and money market awards for two years. In 2013, he also won the Most Outstanding Business-Reporting Title Editor award of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN). A minister in the LORDS’s vineyard, he has been an inspirational speaker and resource person at many corporate and religious fora since early 2004, and has so far authored three books on the capital market; on personal effectiveness, and on personal finance, in 2008 and 2014, respectively.