Solutions for African Food Enterprises

Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE) was a public-private partnership between TechnoServe, Partners in Food Solutions, and USAID that aimed to increase the competitiveness of the African food processing sector to expand availability of affordable and nutritious foods to local populations. The program benefited more than 1,000 food processors who source from more than 800,000 smallholder farmers in five countries.

Context

Nearly two-thirds of the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa is focused on agriculture. However, many of these workers are smallholder farmers who lack access to stable and profitable markets for their crops, trapping them in a cycle of poverty. As a result of poverty and a lack of accessible nutritious food, a quarter of the region’s population is also undernourished.

Opportunity

Food processing is a significant driver of local economies, creating supplier linkages for millions of smallholder farmers and helping to elevate rural incomes across East and Southern Africa. As population and urbanization rates rapidly increase across the region, and  millions of people continue to face food insecurity, the demand for food has never been greater. Yet, small and growing local processors often have difficulties producing high-quality affordable and nutritious products that meet food safety standards and regulatory requirements due to a lack of technical and business knowledge and investment.

Strategy


Read the SAFE final report, exploring five years of impact in the African food processing sector. 

Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE) was a public-private partnership between TechnoServe, Partners in Food Solutions, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that aimed to increase the competitiveness of the African food processing sector and expand the availability of affordable and nutritious foods.

SAFE was launched in 2012 in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia with a $6.3 million grant from USAID. In 2016, SAFE expanded to Ethiopia and Tanzania and extended the timeframe in the other countries with an additional $4.1 million grant. 

SAFE matched the expertise of leading global food companies with the needs of African-based food processing companies. These consultations helped local processors to produce and market high-quality, safe, and nutritious foods, creating sustainable value chain linkages that support local farmers and help meet the nutrition needs of the wider community.

Volunteers from Partners in Food Solutions' member companies – General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM, Bühler, Hershey, and Ardent Mills – remotely transferred knowledge and technical assistance to processors on topics such as product formulation, fortification and packaging, and business operations. At the same time, TechnoServe food technologists and business advisors located in Africa provided on-site support to processors.

Recognizing that enterprises in different countries face different challenges, the partnership developed solutions tailored to a processor’s particular situation as well as country-specific strategies to generate the highest return on investment. Focusing on long-term sustainability, SAFE sought to strengthen the overall food-processing ecosystem by:

  • Supporting emerging processors through sector-wide trainings in food quality, safety, fortification, and other challenges facing local processors;
  • Facilitating linkages between processors and potential markets and sources of finance;
  • Equipping local institutions to support processors by developing and sharing training materials; and
  • Training universities, local business consulting firms, local universities, and other entities on best practices so they in turn can train local processors and lay the foundation for enduring impact.

Results

Between launch in 2012 and completion in 2017, SAFE delivered customized technical and business support to 127 food processors in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia.

SAFE's 378 capacity building projects resulted in 574 new jobs, the introduction of 327 new technologies and management practices, and the production of nearly 60,000 metric tons of nutritious food products.

These food processors also provide stable market opportunities for more than 800,000 smallholder farmers, who support an estimated 4 million family members.

SAFE held 65 sector-wide trainings, strengthening the knowledge base of 1,709 participants in business strategy, planning, and technical areas (e.g., good manufacturing practices, food fortification, aflatoxin control, milling technology).

The team also developed a set of learning manuals, including two e-books: the Agri-Business Management Handbook and the Handbook for Food Fortification in Kenya.

In order to strengthen the African food processing sector at large, SAFE worked to help processors establish over 119 market linkages.

Lastly, the SAFE program demonstrated the business case for investing in the food processing industry, facilitating $13 million in private sector investment over the course of the program. 

Partners

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent agency that provides economic, development, and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.

Partners in Food Solutions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that links the technical and business expertise of volunteer employees from General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM, Bühler, Hershey, and Ardent Mills to small and growing food processors and millers in the developing world.

TechnoServe is an international nonprofit that works with enterprising people in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. TechnoServe directs all on-the-ground implementation for the TechnoServe-PFS Alliance, identifying and partnering with food processors, government, and private sector bodies, linking their challenges to technical experts within PFS and supporting their business, technical, and training needs.