On April 27, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, GAIN, launched the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) in Ethiopia. Co-convened by the World Food Program, SBN Ethiopia engaged all relevant small and medium-sized businesses involved in the country’s food sector to scale up and invest in the nutrition agenda.
The launch hosted a media press conference bringing in over 15 media houses from TV, radio and print. The panellists included Ton Haverkort, Country Director GAIN Ethiopia, Abenezer Feleke, Project Manager, SBN Ethiopia at GAIN, Abinet Tekele, National SBN Coordinator and Engidu Legesse, Founder of GUTS Agro Industry, one of the leading complimentary food and iodized salt processing companies in Ethiopia, the owner of which is also the chairperson of the SBN executive board representing the private sector.
Ethiopia has in recent years registered significant strides in addressing malnutrition. However, it is still one of the highest contributors to the global burden of malnutrition after India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria. This being the #NutritionYearofAction, SBN Ethiopia shares the call for game changing ideas to curb malnutrition as highlighted by Ton Haverkort while delivering his opening remarks at the event, "We are very good at developing policies and strategies. The issue is how do we ensure implementation. This is where SUN Business Network Ethiopia comes in. Engaging the private sector in these important decisions to create the right enabling environment is key if we want to see real action on the ground".
In 2015 the African Union published a Cost of Hunger Report which estimated the annual cost of undernutrition to Ethiopia at ETB 55.5B (USD 4.7B) which is equivalent to 16.5% of GDP. Thus, the need to come up with a more action-oriented platform such as SBN is key as noted by Dr Ferew Lemma, SUN focal point and Advisor to the State Minster of Health saying, "I can clearly see how SUN Business Network Ethiopia will enable us to facilitate the transformation of the Ethiopian food system by ensuring availability, accessibility and affordability of safe, diverse and nutritious food for all".
Engaging the private sector in these important decisions to create the right enabling environment is key if we want to see real action on the ground.
To further make gains, driving conversations about Ethiopia’s nutrition agenda will take a multi-sectoral approach, "Despite being one of the key players in the food system, the private sector’s massive contribution to improving malnutrition in Ethiopia has been side-lined for far too long. SBN Ethiopia shall bring this agenda forward at all platforms to make sure that the private sector becomes part of the solution," Abinet Tekle noted.
That does not work. If we really want to tackle the malnutrition burden, we need to engage the private sector from the get-go. That is a game changer!
The afternoon workshop launched the comprehensive three-year (2021-2013) strategy of SBN Ethiopia highlighting the vision to be the focal point for private sector engagement in the nutrition agenda and also contribute to the policy and regulatory decision-making processes.
"Developing the national nutrition strategy of this country was one of the most complex and challenging endeavours I have ever taken. A lot of work still needs to be done and having SBN Ethiopia as one of the key actors is not just key, it is a necessity if we are going to really tackle the burden of malnutrition in this country", said Mrs. Frealem Shibabaw, founder of Ethiopian School Meals Initiative and State Minster of Peace during the panel discussion.
The workshop also brought in key government actors from the Ministry of Health and the FoodBeverage Pharmaceutical Industries Development Institute under the Ministry of Trade and Industry who all heightened the vital role that government must play to create an enabling environment for businesses in this sector to thrive in production, processing, marketing and distribution of nutritious foods.
A lot of work still needs to be done and having SBN Ethiopia as one of the key actors is not just key, it is a necessity if we are going to really tackle the burden of malnutrition in this country.
The launch event further gathered its network members coming from complimentary foods, oil, dairy, cereal producers, salt processors and coffee exporters who were showcased in an exhibition opened by the delegates. This means having the platform for business to showcase their products and create more opportunities to scale, invest and grow in the nutrition sector.