GAIN Interview Cruncher - Harnessing the impact of enterprise support reaching Low-Income consumers

Abuja, 27 June 2023 - 

This Interview Cruncher will highlight what needs to be done to harness the impact of enterprise support in reaching low-income consumers with healthy diets.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Hello, everyone. I'm Yetunde Olarewaju. Thank you for joining us as we mark the World MSME Day today. So a brief background on today's celebrations, the United Nations General Assembly designated the 27th of June as the Micro-Small-and-Medium-sized Enterprises day to raise awareness of the tremendous contributions of these MSMEs to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

MSMEs account for 90% of businesses, 60 to 70% of employment, and 50% of GDP worldwide.

And according to the World Bank, 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes MSME development a high priority for many governments around the world.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, GAIN, identifies the critical role of MSMEs to achieve its vision of a world without malnutrition, in which all people have access to and consume healthier diets.

Through its Nutrition Enterprise Unit, or the NEU, GAIN is engaging with the private sector by harnessing their expertise and resources to support global food systems transformation. NEU focuses on MSMEs because they have the flexibility and the agility to change their practises rapidly and have a positive impact on the communities they serve, especially as it pertains to nutrition.

Today, we'll be having discussions on the topic, harnessing the impact of enterprise support in reaching low income consumers with healthy diets.

Additionally, we'll be seeking answers on the level of support available to strengthen the capacity of these MSMEs to make impact, the importance of gender smart business support, the opportunities available in leveraging on enterprise support organisations, and the role of partnerships and advocacy in sustaining the impact of this support.

I am pleased to introduce our speakers for today's Interview Cruncher. With me, I have Manasseh Miruka. He is the Cluster Lead for the Nutrition Enterprise Unit at GAIN.

I also have Adanne Uche. She's the Founder and CEO of Ady's Agro-processing Limited in Nigeria. I have Shoaib Awan. He's the Business Unit Head for WizTec Food Solutions Private Limited in Pakistan.

And lastly, I have Margaret Ngetha. She's the African Regional Manager and also the Women and Youth Technical Lead for the SUN Business Network.

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to GAIN's Interviewer Cruncher.

So I'll start with Manasseh. Manasseh, can we have your presentation please?

Manasseh Miruka: So, good afternoon, good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Manasseh Miruka, as has been introduced by Yetunde. And I am the cluster lead or programme lead for the Nutrition Enterprise Unit at GAIN. I sit in Nairobi office with the Kenya country team. I'm representing the cluster here and also working with colleagues from different parts of global programmes.

So today, I will talk about simple activities that we do within the SMEs programme or the SMEs hub, known as the Programme for Thriving SMEs in GAIN. The Nutrition Enterprise Unit, or cluster, is GAIN's centre of excellence in supporting small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, in nutritious food value chains.

This includes technical assistance or leveraging partnerships through our component of Nutrition Impact at Scale, development of financial services through our Nutritious Foods Financing Facility, also known as the N3F, and advocacy for SMEs through the SUN Business Network, also known as the SBN. NEU also supports several other projects seeking to develop specific nutritious food value chains.

And this is a unit which is active in all of our five African countries right now, plus four Asian countries, where GAIN maintains offices. Presently of course, we have expanded to Uganda and one of our programmes on SBN and also to Benin to start activities in that country.

So we are basically in six African countries, plus Tanzania, which is also covered under different programmes.

So the NEU hub, as you can see, has the three components of SUN Business Network, the Nutritious Foods Financing Facility, and the Nutrition Impact at Scale.

So we work with other organisations that are willing and have the requisite capacity to attach a nutrition lens and a food safety lens to their work with SMEs within the nutrition impact at scale component. And here, we will enable a large scale acceleration of nutrition impact for the masses.

The programme also works in four countries. We already started in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Kenya, as I said, plus the two new focus countries of Uganda and Benin, to continue to bring attention to nutrition related issues and bring actionable knowledge and practical tools to sustainably help relevant stakeholders, actors to support and incubate SMEs to improve nutrition impact.

Our work within this project leverages an extensive experience that GAIN has over the years for providing quality technical assistance, networking and knowledge sharing, and the various supply chain tools and resources that have been developed by GAIN within these value chains.

So the project works with existing SME support providers, we'll call them the ESOs, or enterprise support organisations, with a wide reach of SMEs in their networks.

Our next component is on Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network, which exists in a lot of countries already. We can confirm that GAIN and the UN World Food Programme convenes the SBN and works mostly with private sector networks and SUN Business Network.

The SBN supports governments to mobilise businesses behind their national nutrition strategies. And the SUN Business Network also aims to increase the availability, affordability of safe, nutritious foods to consumers, and especially those at the bottom of the pyramid or the vulnerable ones.

So SBN's core activities are around convening, where businesses are brought together to facilitate dialogue and strengthen mutual accountability among businesses and non-business stakeholders.

We also amplify the voices of the private sector to help strengthen the enabling environment for private sector investment in nutrition and also advancing practical business solutions to strengthen businesses, business models that catalyse nutrition investment. So this is the core area or core activities of the SBN as a network. 

Our final component is the Nutritious Foods Financing Facility, which is a partnership between Incofin IM and GAIN. Incofin is the investment manager and GAIN, the responsibility for other, the next aspect of the programme where we have N3F's three core areas of activities.

The first component of N3F is about impact-first funds. This is where we are providing blended consumer finance, for companies that are in food nutrition, to provide safe and nutrition foods to local consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So here, we invest, we manage, and we provide nutrition expertise to these companies. The second component is in technical assistance that is provided by GAIN's N3F.

The fund's investees receive focused general business management practises, nutrition and food safety training, which is aimed at supporting these SMEs to reach their potential and become more effective and efficient.

And finally, we provide some monitoring, evaluation, and learning to these companies and also to GAIN where we produce knowledge dissemination, and development of validated metrics, targeting nutritious-sensitive investments. So these are the three components of the cluster that work directly with SMEs in our efforts to empower them to scale and to leverage on our skills as an organisation.

Thank you.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you so much, Manasseh, for walking us through the level of support available for MSMEs within GAIN. So from your presentation, I would like to ask, how can we catalyse the action for investments in nutrition and the support of the work being done with these enterprise support organisation and the MSMEs?

Manasseh Miruka: For investing in nutrition, we have two approaches that need to be empowered. The first one is of course working with these SMEs to recognise the value in the nutrition as a business. And that value of course is in healthy and safe foods that are provided at low cost to low income consumers.

So this gives a very big consumer base that SMEs can target for their businesses. But on the other hand, we also have an interest in working with investment organisations and companies, financial institutions that provides, you know, capital to SMEs. And they also need a lot of support to understand the value in investing in nutrition. So our capacity building activities should go beyond exposing SMEs to investment in nutrition and also to bringing in the financial investments that are required to leverage this, the activities of the SMEs.

So our target right now is to work closely with the investment companies, investment firms, and agencies that provide technical and financial assistance to SMEs to understand the value of investment in nutrition and also to provide that needed capital to boost the growth of SMEs within the nutrition space.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you so much, Manasseh, for that. We'll move on to Adanne. Adanne will be speaking to us about the importance of partnerships and advocacy. Adanne, over to you.

Adanne Uche: Okay, so thank you, Yetunde, for having me. Thank you, everyone. I'm glad that Manasseh spoke before me. So I'm just like an example of all the supports that we get from multi stakeholders, people like GAIN.

Okay, my name is Adanne Uche, and I run Ady's Agro-processing Limited, like Yetunde introduced me. We are a food processing and packaging business that is based in Lagos, Nigeria that provides families with healthier cooking ingredients, seasoning blends and spices so that families could enjoy nutritious, healthy, and delicious food for everyone.

So I'm just going to... It's just about trying to explain the support that we've gotten from stakeholders.

I'm just going to give a brief description of or summary of my journey with Ady's. So I started this business as, it was just a hobby. And I was just at a depressive state after having my child. I didn't know what to do. But I knew that I needed to help people, especially in the kitchen department.

That is how Ady's was started, and it started out as a grocery and food shopping business.

But the experience in the Nigerian open market, The Nigerian open market I saw a lot of unhealthy food practises, adulteration going on in the market.

That was actually what gave birth to us having a product based business that tackles the issue of malnutrition, the unhealthy food practices, like I said, and adulteration in the market.

And it was started out as a 30,000 Naira business loan, but have grown in millions of Naira. And you know, as a business owner and as a woman, you know, it's quite difficult sometimes accessing funding, you know, having partnerships and pushing our voice in the nutrition space to the world.

So what we did was, that we had to spread our tentacles to see organisations that actually buy into the nutrition space. And that was how GAIN came about. At the time when this business was just in my kitchen, I remember there was an application that came out, you know, and it was in during the COVID time. And it came out for support for SMEs like myself, you know, to be able to get raw materials and distribute our products.

Because during the COVID, there was lockdown, but the only people that were given access to actually still run their businesses, were those in the support services and food businesses.

But then I did the application and actually got a support, you know, from GAIN. And that was what, you know, plunged my business. You know, I had to leave that kitchen space that I was, and I moved into a mini factory that we are today. So these are the kind of support that we get from stakeholders such as GAIN, even though that we've gotten other support from other businesses, other stakeholders like the governments and all that, this is just a pictorial of how the business started as a grocery shopping.

I had the mini market where I sold, you know, FMCG products, but then I realised that I needed to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the Nigerian community, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid. We have also come to understand that these people, they're the ones that need to eat these nutritious foods.

But unfortunately, information, they don't get those information that they actually needed, even though some of them know. And even if they know, they don't have enough resources to buy the products. Because when we started out, we were thinking we are targeting the mid-level income earners, but as time went on and as we progress, we understood that more than 60% contribute to the workforce of the over 250 million Nigerian population.

And attention needs to be focused on them, hence we created a single satchet of our products to also target these people, the BoPs.

Because they deserve to eat healthy and thanks to support also from institutions like GAIN, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, the USADF, and some other organisations.

And just recently, you know, even though I'm the assistant, I'm the General Secretary for the SUN Business Network of GAIN, so it gives me opportunity anytime I go for.. any programme that I meet people doing the same thing as I do, even though it might not be in the same food processing, but the same building a nutritious community,

I always have the opportunity to speak to them about what GAIN is doing.

We are contributing a larger percentage to the global food safety of everyone. With the help of these stakeholders, we are able to... We just recently launched into the UK market, that we also need those who appreciate African dishes to be able to enjoy nutritious and delicious food, and all thanks to support that we get from various organisations. Thank you.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you so much, Adanne! In fact, it seems like you're already an ambassador for GAIN and for SBN, you know, from all of the things that you've just mentioned now.

And I'm so happy to see that you moved from just providing food for people to providing nutritious food, especially for the bottom of the pyramid.

So I know that a lot of things are going on for you as an SME, but I'd like to ask the question. So why is the enterprise support, why is it important to MSMEs such as yours to achieving healthier diets for all people?

Adanne Uche: We have organisations like GAIN who are trying to push this nutritious foods to, you know, a lot of consumers.

But they cannot do it themselves. That is why partnerships, you know, with businesses like myself, enterprises like myself, because we are the one that have the opportunity to reach to these lower cadres in rural areas.

For example, we also partner with smallholder farmers, because we've understood what the output should be. So we speak to them on how their yields should look like when it comes to us, right?

So GAIN will not be, so somebody like GAIN will not be able to reach them directly.

This is where we come.

We are just like, enterprises like myself, we are just like the middle man.

You know, aside from giving them, you know, light, giving them time to shed light on what they're doing as a smallholder farmers, but it's also for us to help them have access to market. Because if we showcase what we are doing already processed, you know, this raw materials already processed into finished products, it also gives them access to market.

Because when we get orders, like we just finished over 2,000 bottles of each of our products going to UK.

That means it's also helping people get employed, right? It's also helping them with their yields. They are not going to make them. Instead, they will believe that they were working on a one-hectare farmland, possibly to provide themselves with increased access and resources.

And we're also telling them, giving them education, right, on the kind of yields that we require. So we are kind of a middle ground.

And this support that we get from GAIN helps us in a larger scale to reach everyone.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Oh, okay. Thank you, Adanne. So I hear you, I hear that this support comes in different forms, maybe like technical assistance, maybe like business to business networking. So can you explain it a little bit more about some of these things that, you know, some of the supports that has come to you as a business?

Adanne Uche: Okay, so aside from the funding support, the grant that I got, which you know, actually helped me leap from that 30,000 Naira to over 13 million in turnover.

Yeah, so it's also give me exposure, right? It has given me exposure. So I now speak on platforms that I would never have thought, you know, that I would speak at from Rwanda to Kenya to everywhere.

I was recently appointed by, you know, GAIN (as Secretary General of the Sun Business Network South-West Zone, Nigeria) also, I was a guest speaker at SOAS University London, where I also told my story, right?

This, my story, has been my power, how I started. And you know, it's a way of inspiring, because I get a lot of emails, I get a lot of messages, people want me to mentor them. And it's this type of support, right?

So when GAIN support someone like me or an enterprise like me, it's not only for me, but other people that are coming, other people that are looking at me, right?

And aside from the funding, the exposure, you also give me access to market, right?

Now I can boldly stand and say that Ady's is processing hundred percent from start to finish.

I am proud of it and I'm not ready to even move. Even though that the economic situations, right, of our consumers are dwindling.

That is why I'm not sticking to the mid-level income earners, but I'm taking it down to those, the BoPs.

Because they deserve it. So now they can afford our 50 naira seasoning blends. And going forward, we also looking for our 2023 strategy, is for us, working with GAIN also to have a single use palm oil that is fortified with vitamin A. And I hope that we are going to achieve that. 

So access to market, opportunities to talk or be on stages, travel around the country, telling people that you can't actually do it alone.

This entrepreneur journey is a lonely one, right? It's a very lonely one.

And what everybody needs is a support, either from your bankers, from organisation, and from your state governments. And I tell people to actually utilise their social media. So, you know, a lot of people use it for a lot of things. And there's a social media algorithms, that whatever you search for, each time you open your phone, it comes to you.

So what you look for finds a way of dropping on your lap. But another thing is that, how do you now use that thing that drops on your lap?

Do you now use it well or do you now use it badly? I know that GAIN has supported a lot of SMEs. Another thing is monitoring.

Are you able to monitor? Are they able to monitor the growth of all the people that they've supported?

I use my own wisely. I don't know about other people. So sometimes, there might be negative impact and they might positive impact.

But it is for you.

What is the vision? Are you keen into the United Nations vision of, you know, healthy food, you know, support and all that? And I'm really indebted to GAIN for that.

So thank you.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you so much. And I know that if we give you time, you can go on and on. And you just exhibit the passion that every MSME would have when they have the right support to achieve healthier diets for all. Thank you so much, Adanne. Alright, so we'll move on to Shoaib Awan.

Shoaib is gonna be presenting to us on the opportunities and challenges available in the space, in the enterprise support space. So Shoaib, I'm handing this over to you.

Shoaib Awan: Thank you very much. And before I start my presentation, in fact the information sharing, I would like to appreciate the efforts being made by Adanne. And today, Monica just got an email from Adanne, because she actually has sent it to everybody. And I just went through the details in her email, and those were really impressive.

And with her permission, I've shared some of the information with my wife as well.

Because this is something that can be quoted to the women in Pakistan as well, that this, a good gesture can be a great contribution or could be a great contribution to any economy for many women.

So I just wanted to share my side of the thoughts to Adanne as well.

So I'll just introduce myself, I've put it here as well, just for the sake of everybody to understand if I'm not properly audible.

My name is Shoaib Awan, and I'm a Food Technologist by profession. And I'm heading Wiztec Food Solutions as Business Unit Head, which is Pakistan's most modern and the biggest dehydration facility. And I have an experience of 18 plus years in diverse roles from quality management, production operations, to business management.

And as I told you, I'm a Food Technologist by profession, and I believe in the fact that innovation can be the only resort in order to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, and also, to optimise your resources.

Let me just give you an overview, a quick overview of what Pakistan right now is.

We are a country of almost 210 million population by this time I'm talking to you people now. And where 44% of the children under five have the stunted growth, that means we are badly in a situation where the nutritional impacts are clearly impacting the whole nation.

And 36.9% of the population here faces food insecurities. And adding insult to the injury, there's a 50.8% of the monthly income is being spent on the food. And one can imagine that if the 50% of the whole income is spent on the food and if there is a lot more food insecurities are there, that there could be a larger impact if there is any kind of disturbance because of the climate and the floods.

So that's what we have recently faced. We have come up actually with an innovative solution, because we believe the innovation can lead to sustainable growth and the health benefit and business opportunities for everyone.

This actually is a product which I would like to showcase here and share with everybody.

It's going to be a little bit more technical information, but if somebody likes to ask more questions, I'll be happy to answer those.

This is a product which is made from white beet and why I'm presenting this information over here?

Because I just mentioned a quick overview that we have a food insecurity index of 84th position out of 113. And we, again, have 75th position out of 113 countries across the world for affordability.

And the quality, again, we don't have any good numbers.

Sustainability, this actually is the biggest problem. Because we only rely on few crops like wheat and corn and rice, the third one; to a certain extent, potato.

But we don't have any other biomass that can be used to feed the poor people around in Pakistan.

So we have come up with a solution, which is a white beet flour which can be extensively grown across Pakistan and can have very high yields, much more higher than the wheat and rice, and can produce a significantly high volume of biomass.

And this also contain a lot of nutrients in it. So that can really help the stunted children, because it not only contains the nutrients, it contains a lot of fibre in it. That actually can improve the gut health, and ultimately, the nutrient absorption.

So who we actually are, we own the biggest dehydration facility, and we are on a mission to provide the food ingredient solutions for the world. And a bit of overview of the group, and then the mission that Wiztec Food Solutions, constant supply of sustainable solutions to the food and specialty industry.

This, actually, we believe in.

And that is why the whole organisation is invested in the innovation.

And this has been very difficult, very challenging task for us, to grow this crop in Pakistan. Because this is not a native crop of Pakistan. This is native to the European and Chinese countries and most of the border regions.

But we have been able to crack this crop in Pakistan and produce a wonderful product and ingredient as well. Why and how?

Because we believe in innovation that can lead to the creating more opportunities as we are just discussing here, white beet flour.

And there is an abundant need of the fibre to overcome the fibre deficiency, not just because, as we all know, that minimum fibre requirement is 25 grammes per person.

Normally, the fibre intake is only 10 to 15 grammes per person, which is significantly low.

So this crop is actually a vegetable crop, which provides a lot of fibre.

But it doesn't have a lot of phytosterols in it, which is normally associated with the fibres, which are from the seed oil sources. So this can be consumed at a much higher quantity compared to the cereal fibres and can be easily digestible in the body, because it contains both types of the fibres in it.

So the fibre need needs to be addressed particularly, then we are actually cultivating this crop with 35,000 acres of land.

And this has only happened because of the trust and relationship with us, with our farmers.

And obviously, we have developed one of the most modern dehydration facility in order to make the final product, which is a powder form.

We call it white beet flour, which has only happened because of the advanced technology that we have.

And then, since we believe in the sustainability, so this product will help in providing a sustainable solution to the future. And more importantly, this whole operation is run on renewable resources, which is why we are very proud of it, that the whole operation is being operated on complete renewable resources.

I'll just give you an overview of this product.

White beet flour is a fibre source. It can be used as a pre-mix.

Now the point is, where is the application? It can be used as a pre-mix in all food products, especially in the baking. Because it has very high water absorption capacity, and it gives a lot of fibre and essential sugars and minerals and vitamins in it.

And then, why it is needed, because the high price of the flour, and because of the lesser yield of the wheat, and then obviously, the immediate need of the carbohydrate can be addressed with this.

In order to achieve this, we have big capacity dehydration facility. 

And by the time we are talking now, most of the bread and biscuit industry has started to use this product as an additive. Because this actually has started to replace some part of wheat flour into their recipes.

Again, as I just told you, that this is a bakery solution, which is a premix. It reduces the cost of manufacturing of the bakery, because it increases the number of breads per batch.

Why? Because it has very high water absorption capacity. The higher the water absorption capacity, the more will be the number of breads per batch. And then it reduces the sugar consumption per batch, because it naturally contains a lot of sweetness in it. And then it increases the quality of the produced,

I mean the baking products. Because of the soluble fibres inside it, the retention time of the bread and the bakery product is increased, and hence, there is a lesser market return. And hence, there is lesser losses of the food as well.

The natural ingredient which contains minerals and vitamins, and more importantly, this is a solution for those who have some kind of gluten intolerancy.

What is the impact of this white beet flour and why I presented this over here?

Because it directly has impacted the farmers, because the farmer can have a shorter cycle crop, can have the higher yields per acre, and have lesser cost of operations.

And for the industry, it is a premix, fibre needs, and then it improve yield of batches and improve texture. And for the consumers, the fibre needs are addressed and vitamin and mineral needs are addressed.

And then for the allied sector, obviously, if the industry operates and farmers are working and consumers are needing this product, so the allied sector also get the advantage. Which we have observed, that the transportation sector, contractual labour, and there are more opportunities for the jobs have been created because of this innovative solution.

As I've just mentioned in my previous slides, I'll just go through quickly. Because this could be a bit of repetition as well.

So the white beet flour normally contains 40-45% of fibre in it, which contain both soluble fibres. I mean soluble and insoluble fibres, and it contained vitamin and minerals and other ingredients as well. It helps in improving the digestive system, because in my part of the world, the major issue is digestive issues, which is mainly because of the lesser fibre intake and higher spices intake, which ultimately impact the gut flora.

And most of the nutrient absorption is not addressed. Even if we take the multivitamin and minerals, the nutrient absorption can't be addressed because of the poor gut health. So the fibre is the most, most important need to address the actual root cause.

So that is why we have done this.

Then obviously, to combat the food security issues and to provide a solution for the gluten-free product. This is how we started.

We started off a journey from 2018 by planting and identifying the specific seeds, and then the commercial production started in 2019. We have been able to produce the right quality produce, which you guys can see. It's almost closer to the wheat flour colour, and now its application has been started in different parts of Pakistan and some of the United Arab Emirates as well.

Why this product is important?

Because it contains lot of fibre as you guys can see here. It contain 52.18% fibre and some naturally occurring sugar in there. Then it contains protein and some of the fats and fibres. Most important part is essential vitamin and minerals.

And I would like to refer here that this product contain iron, zinc and magnesium in good amount, which can be used as a biofortification tool as well. And then this is the evidence to the water absorption capacity of this product. This, as you can see, that they have taken some certain amount of flour and then added the water.

And then, they inverted the beaker. This holds the product inside it, and it went to 3.6 for its own weight. And at the same time, it's keeping the product as well.

These are few of the quick applications that I can share with you, gluten-free biscuits, and other product. Then we have very famous product, which is called rusk in Pakistan. It is a completely baked dry format of the bread and then the pizza and then the breads with the high fibre.

There's a lot of opportunity for people who want to explore this kind of a market and more importantly, for those who are looking for the solutions for the industry, where the nutrition is the most important element. 

Thank you very much for my side. If you guys have any questions, I'm open to it.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you so much, Shoaib. I mean, your presentation just, you know, reminds me of one of the strong interventions that GAIN is, you know, known for.

And that is fortification. I saw a lot of that coming strongly in your presentation. I also know that we also championed biofortification and even the commercialisation of some of these biofortified crops, like the vitamin A maize, cassava, orange-fleshed sweet potato.

So it's good to see that there's something like that for Pakistan as well. And I'm happy that you have innovative solutions around ensuring that this is available for your consumers, especially for low income consumers.

So I would like to ask, based on this presentation, how do you think development partners like GAIN or financial institution, or you know, different stakeholder alliances, how can they play a role in supporting this innovative solutions for businesses?

Shoaib Awan: Actually Yetunde, the opportunity that we see is global. And this global opportunity will not only help the poor people in Pakistan who are basically the farmers, because this crop can directly affect their lives and their livelihood.

Because the women are also involved in this. We actually have given this opportunity to those farmers, where the families are also interacting in the growth pattern of this crop. So this is where we feel very proud about it, that this crop is sown in different parts of the Pakistan, where mostly the rural areas.

And those rural areas, we have tried our best to utilise the potential of the women in those sectors. So this, if this crop, it continues to grow, that means that the people of Pakistan will continue to grow, and they'll be contributing to the economy as well.

But how the GAIN can contribute in that, we only need a bit of exposure of this product.

Because currently, the way we have got the overwhelming response on this, because the user once start using this, they get to know more about it.

Because it improves their yields per batches. So that is the biggest benefit for the nutrition industry. We actually need to understand this very important element. We cannot leave the economics behind and just focus on the nutrition and try to go to the masses.

This is a total different scenario.

If we talk about nutrition for the masses, that has to be an economical solution. According to me, that has to be an economical solution. So this is an economical solution for most of the nutrition needs that can serve the purpose of most of the population across the globe.

So where we just need the support of GAIN in order to introduce this to most of the peopleacross the globe.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Okay, thank you so much. Just to say that GAIN is just one of the numerous partners that can also, you know, be on board to support this innovative solution.

Thank you so much, Shoaib, My pleasure. bringing this to the limelight. And you had spoken about women, the importance of involving them in these processes.

And so, I'll move on to Margaret. Margaret will be speaking to us about the importance of gender smart business support, how we can include the women, the youth, into some of these enterprise support activities. Margaret, over to you.

Margaret Ngetha: Thank you so much, Yetunde. And I'm happy to be part of this session.

I want to say good morning, good afternoon to everyone. I am excited to hear some entrepreneurs speak, particularly look at the products that they target and also, the ones, the entrepreneur that has just spoken, who is a woman.

I want to speak from the perspective of SUN Business Network, because we are looking at applying a gender lens or providing gender smart business support to the SMEs that we are working with.

And from my perspective, when we talk about gender smart business support, we are referring to initiatives and strategies that aim to promote gender equality and inclusivity within the business sector.

This kind of support has played a crucial role in strengthening both the business and social outcomes of SMEs and their stakeholders, particularly the employees.

And so someone might wonder and ask then, why is gender smart business support important to us?

And the reasoning is because it is a very powerful tool. It is a very powerful strategy that every person and every organisation that is supporting businesses need to look at.

Number one, we are using it so that we can be able to accelerate equality and empowerment among the women. In 2022, there was the global gender gap report, and it actually indicated that globally, the gap between or the gender parity has just closed up by 68%.

And if we were to move by this current rate, then it'll actually take about 132 years to reach full parity.

When it looks at the economic participation and opportunity for the women, then this gender gap has only closed up to 60%, meaning that we still have an opportunity and there's a chance for us from the business angle to look at how best we can be able to participate to ensure that this gender gap closes.

And also, give the women the opportunity to participate economically.

So therefore, I would say that accelerating equality is not just a social imperative, but it's also a very smart business strategy. And this is smart because it leads actually to improved financial performance, it increases productivity, and of course, gives a stronger reputation from the participating businesses.

So as SUN Business Network, we are currently supporting over 1,500 SMEs.

Out of that 1,500, about a third of them are women led and women owned.

And we support them through provision of technical support. We provide them with mentorship, we organise convenings for them. We also provide a space for them to advocate for better business operating environment. And we do this with a gender lens.

So we also have women and youth empowerment strategy that we launched last year.

And this strategy has three guiding principles, and allow me to just say what these principles are.

One, our principle number one is on the intentional focus on women led and women owned businesses and employees.

The second principle is amplifying the participation and voice of women within the business space.

And the third principle is ensuring that we have inclusivity in how we convene businesses and how we bring on board businesses to participate in our networks.

So with these three principles at hand, then what are we seeing and what have we continued to see?

So number one, I would say that the gender smart business support has actually empowered women entrepreneurs.

We have actually enabled them by giving them a platform and a space where they can be able to actively participate in economic activities and also contribute to the growth of their businesses.

I think Ady gave a very good example and a testimony to the same. So we have kind of targeted, so we promote targeted interventions.

And some of the targeted interventions, that would be things like access to finance through grants, through the pitch competitions and ensuring that we have a gender representation through providing linkages to businesses and other mentorship programmes, as well as during training.

We ensure that any training that we perform, we ensure that the voices and the women are well represented, and this has actually helped the women owned businesses to thrive, and it has also given them a safe space for them to participate in peer-to-peer support with one another.

So secondly, with the gender smart business support, we have fostered inclusivity on the supply chains. And we have also enhanced market opportunities for SMEs. So SMEs have been able to access new markets, they have increased sales, and also, they've been able to attract socially conscious consumers.

So for example, SME has SBN, or SUN Business Network has a database of what we call the global partners or multinational food companies that actually provide mentorship to SMEs in developing or emerging economies. One of the examples that I could give is that we, at some point, we did a project or an initiative with a multinational food company that actually supported smallholder or small scale women farmers in one of the SBN countries.

And through capacity building programmes, fair trade practises, the women farmers were able to gain access to premium markets, and then, now, this resulted in improved incomes and definitely, better living standards.

The third thing that I would want to say, that having support with a gender lens is important, is that we have continued to run such programmes. Currently, we are running a mentorship programme where we are actually targeting women led and owned businesses.

And the main objective of this mentorship programme is to tease out the women business models we are looking at, where they can be able to improve three things, so that they can be able to improve their product offering, but ensuring that they produce nutritious foods that are targeted to the communities through for them to be able to improve their level of compliance to food safety standards, and thirdly, so that they can be able to increase their ability to access finance.

Now also within the SBN National Networks, we are establishing women chapters within the networks. And these women chapters are going to be a good platform where the women can be able to engage and provide peer-to-peer support.

However, I would say that there are still some constraints that are hindering the full realisation of the potential of such an initiative.

And women continuously.. have continued to have limited access to resources. They have lower bargaining power. They're actually facing unequal distribution of benefits. There are gender biases and social norms. And so, these also require comprehensive approaches to address the systemic barriers that are there to be able to promote gender responsive policies at various level.

And that is why as the SUN Business Network, we are very keen on inclusivity.

We are very keen on convening so that we are able to bring together a lot of stakeholders, including government, civil society, and other private sector collaborators so that we can be able to systemically deal with these barriers and continually provide the gender smart business support.

So as I conclude, I would say that within SUN Business Network, we can say that the gender smart business support has played a very vital role in strengthening both the business and social outcomes.

We are actually addressing the gender inequalities that are within the business sector.

We are promoting inclusive practises, we are leveraging on market opportunities that are available.

And so, we can see that through all these initiatives, SMEs have been able to contribute to improved nutrition, sustainable food systems, and overall, the wellbeing of communities.

However, I would say that this is an ongoing effort. It cannot be done alone by SUN Business Network, but it's something that's supposed to be done by consulted efforts from all stakeholders.

Thank you very much.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you so much, Margaret. You've listed a lot of interventions going out to businesses, especially to the women led. And it's good to see that there's a lot of inclusivity involved in this.

Remember that we're talking about harnessing the impact of enterprise support in reaching low income consumers with healthier diets. So I would like to ask from your talking points, how responsive do you think these supported MSMEs are to harnessing the impact of support that they have received so far, from your own perspective?

Margaret Ngetha: Yeah, thanks, Yetunde, for that question. Because for every service that is provided of any market, there is normally the forces of demand and supply. And so I would actually say that the responsiveness of the SMEs to the support that has been provided will vary significantly due to a number of factors.

One, it'll vary because of the nature of the support that has been provided. 

Also, it will vary because of the specific needs and circumstances of the SMEs.

And thirdly, it'll vary due to the overall business environment.

So in some cases, you find where SMEs have been highly responsive and proactive in harnessing the impact of the service, and actually, they've been able to draw the benefits and understanding. And they've been able to engage in some of the services of the TA that have been, the technical service support that has been provided to them to an extent that they've been able to implement the recommendations.

They've been able to adopt and adapt their businesses to the technologies and practises.

And they has also been able to strive for continuous business improvement within their business environments.

However, it is also important to note that not all SMEs will exhibit such level of responsiveness.

Of course, some SMEs face some challenges in fully harnessing the impact of the support due to a number of reasons.

One is because we are supporting the SMEs, sometimes we call them the missing middle. But nowadays, they're being called the emerging middle. And so, they could have challenges of, they have limited resources to implement. Sometimes even if we have provided them with the technical assistance or the support, within their businesses, they could lack the knowledge and expertise to be able to articulate or to adapt their businesses.

Thirdly, there could be some organisational barriers, because sometime, the SMEs may not have some very strong and sound organisational structures.

And fourthly, also there could be some external factors that may make them or may not, may hinder them from harnessing that impact. But additionally, I would say that sometimes also, we are looking at the overall and the effectiveness of the support itself.

Looking at how the support has been designed, tailored, does it meet the needs of the SMEs? And then, it depends on how it was.For example, if it is a training, was it accompanied by some follow up guidance maybe? And that's why I've emphasised on us doing some one-on-one mentorship.

If so, then it's likely to yield some better or positive results, or it'll actually encourage some responsiveness. So if the support is inadequate or mismatched to the specific requirements of the SMEs, then it may result into lower level of responsiveness.

So it is actually important for us as service providers to monitor and evaluate the impact that we do and the assistance that we offer to the SMEs. Because again, this will help us to identify the responsiveness and the barriers that are leading to the responsiveness.

And also, that helps us to kind of curate adjustments and maybe see if there's need for additional support.

But overall, I would actually say that the responsiveness of SMEs will vary depending on the wide range of the factors that I have mentioned. However, I think a good percentage of the SMEs that we have worked with have been able to respond positively.

Thank you and over.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Okay, thank you, Maggie. That's a lot to take in. And I'm sure that, you know, we're noting all of these things down, and we're hoping to see how this impact is, you know, harnessed for more support for enterprises or for businesses under the SUN Business Network.

So I will go to Shoaib. So in Pakistan, do we also have this kind of support for MSMEs in the nutrition focused space? And how do you think that the impact of this support is being harnessed in Pakistan?

Shoaib Awan: Unfortunately not, and not to a very big, good level. And there is a lot more work to do and lot more opportunity, in fact, that we still have to work on. And more importantly, there's some kind of social economical challenges as well that we need to overcome in order to get to this level.

But what I believe is there's a lot of will among the people, they are entrusted to do it, but still entangled in some kind of unwanted issues, which should or could have been handled much better and earlier.

But the most important part, what we believe as an organisation in Pakistan is that we should not wait for somebody else to come over and take the responsibility. We should start taking the responsibility and start converting the challenges into opportunities. And that is why we have put this product, as an example to everybody around.

And there are a lot of other success stories that our organisation have been able to put in place. Like I would just like to mention here that we have a network of around 150 schools in Pakistan, which are completely supported by our organisation. And all of these are in the rural areas and where most of the children are the young girls and the young kids.

Because we believe that if we can nourish and nurture those people who are in the deprived areas, they can contribute a lot, not just to the Pakistan economy, but to the economy of the world, and to the global prosperity as well.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Okay, so by support to these schools, you mean that they also have access to some of the biofortified products that you produce in your company?

Shoaib Awan: Yes, exactly.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Fantastic, thank you so much. Adanne, so I was asking Shoaib for MSMEs in Pakistan, how, you know, they're harnessing the impact of enterprise support for their MSMEs? And he has given us, you know, some case studies and success stories, especially from his own company.

So I'm asking that in Nigeria, do you also think that we are harnessing the impact of enterprise support for MSMEs enough to reach out to these low income consumers?

Adanne Uche: From my own perspective, I think so, yes.

We are.

So the thing is, the businesses that are being, or the enterprises that have been affected positively by supports, right? It depends on now what they are now doing. That is why I said earlier, it's about monitoring, right?

And I know that GAIN, through the SUN Business Network, created for Nigeria, we are now divided into zones. So I am the General Secretary for the southwest zone. So we know that if you do it as a whole, there are some loopholes that we are going to find.

That is why we've been broken down into smaller zones and sectors, because there are some problems that we face that are peculiar to those in the western part of Nigeria, that those on the northern part do not face.

But if the enterprises are together and they come together and solve those problems together, it helps. I know for sure that businesses are harnessing the impacts, and they're using it.

Because for... I'll use Ady's as an example. You know, we started out as something, we looked at the support that we got. We looked at also the consumers that, you know, we put out the support for and we found out that, okay, we can't really focus on this target market.

But there's another broader target market that really needs this.

And it's true, some of the publications that I read personally from GAIN, there's a report that just came out saying that, talking about this impact of the enterprises.

And I saw that 70% of the children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia actually do not have enough diets, right? They don't have all nutrient dense diet, and what would they do with this?

Now I have gotten the information for me as an enterprise to go back to the drawing board and see, what can I do? And what we have done since the last year was, we are working on also a nutrient.

Because if you are in Nigeria or if you know the news in Nigeria, there was an egg glut, right?

And we noticed that children are supposed to eat one egg a day, but for the Nigerian child, most of them eat this one egg in weeks or in one month, right?

So what we are doing is to develop a product that has an egg powder, has fruits, has cereals and powder. And it's going to be in a single satchet that is going to be sold below one hundred Naira.

These are some of the impacts, the support that we get in terms of information.

You've given me information, it's now for me to go back and work. Then if not, if I now need funding, then I cannot now say, okay, I've done the work, right?

I've done the work, I've put in the work, I have the equipment. I have the raw materials. It's not to push it into the market. Yeah, so that the impact is... Yeah, so at least you have something to show.

Yes. Yeah.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Oh, awesome. Thank you. Manasseh, from the enterprise support organisation perspective, how are we harnessing this impact? Are there gaps? How do we close those gaps if there are any?

Manasseh Miruka: Thank you, Yetunde, for that. And just picking up from where Adanne left, that there's a lot that still needs to be done.

Enterprise support organisations are basically at the middle or at the centre, between development partners. They're also at the centre between, you know, SMEs of consumers and the market itself, because they provide a linkage, in terms of providing knowledge, tools, and skills that the SMEs need to reach, you know, low income consumers with new business models. Also enriching their work around investment opportunities that exists, you know, by pointing them out and also by providing those skills that are necessary.

So ESOs, as we call them, are really core to the providing the impact to SMEs, and especially for safe and nutritious food SMEs. And part of the work that we do at GAIN is to empower them with the right tools.

Right now, we'll talk about understanding nutrition itself, so the basics of nutrition, food safety, post harvest handling, and management, other elements that really are taught to, you know, safe and nutritious foods.

So with these tools, they're able to build a greater impact.

But as many of us have pointed out here, that this support is not the end. Because, you know, knowledge itself is not investment. Investments need to follow. And a lot of it also needs to come through in the form of the mentoring and the form of the monitoring that we do with these SMEs after providing the support that we've given.

So the gap that could remain at this point is just how they can access more capital, how they can access more financing of the opportunities that they have been shown.

For example, at business level, we expect that they improve productivity. And for them to improve productivity, of course they need to invest in equipment, or raw materials, or more human capital, and know how to build quality.

Sometimes there needs to be an investment in ascertaining that they acquire the right standards, you know, just read those quality standards.

They need to invest in that. And that's an entire process in itself. So a lot of them find that as a very costly exercise. So much as they have knowledge about food safety, for example, quality of food and even knowledge on nutritious food, formulating them becomes a problem.

Because they cannot access the right raw materials in time to do what, you know, is required in the market. So these are some of the areas and gaps that we still need to fill by providing access to finance in the form that they can access it, and which is also affordable to the enterprises that we're supporting.

And that could also be an opportunity for the market itself, to weigh in and, you know, provide the platform to provide the right capital, the blended finances that are needed for the SMEs to thrive within the spaces that, you know,

GAIN has created and within the spaces that other partners have created.

These are such platforms, of course, as SBN exist to provide those conversations and do it for, you know, dialogue around how can we improve on the financial aspect of, you know, investing in nutrition.

So there is quite a lot of work still to be done and GAIN is doing as much as we can, you know, as an organisation to harness the partnerships, the private sector partnerships and other support elements that are available out there for these SMEs to thrive.

Yetunde Olarewaju: Thank you. Thank you so much, Manasseh.

Thank you so much to all our speakers. Been a pleasure having you at the GAIN's Interview Cruncher today. Just to say that at GAIN, we work to support MSMEs in the food system at every step of their development, from inception to maturity. And we also work with these enterprise support organisations that are willing and have the requisite capacity to attach a nutrition lens to their work with MSMEs. And this is to enable a large scaled and accelerated nutrition impact for the low income consumers.

If you want to find out more about the work we do at GAIN with MSMEs, or you want to read more about our latest news, or a replay of this Interview Cruncher, or even previous Interview Crunchers, you can just go to the website at

And you can also follow us on our social media platforms on Twitter. We're @gainalliance.

We're also on Instagram and on LinkedIn. 

Thank you very much for joining us today and happy World MSME Day to all businesses making a difference in the food system to ensure access to healthier diets for all.

Thank you.