Nigerian Food Processing Companies Announce Rapid Progress on Fortifying Staple Foods with Essential Micronutrients
Company CEOs gathered at third annual forum to review progress and areas of renewed focus
LAGOS, Nigeria —Following three years of leadership engagement by the federal government and CEOs of the nation’s largest food processing companies, significant progress has been made fortifying Nigerian staple foods with micronutrients that are essential to achieving better health and nutrition for all. The data was presented today at the 3rd Annual Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum, which was chaired by Alhaji Aliko Dangote with Bill Gates participating by video conference.
According to data presented by international non-governmental organization TechnoServe, companies have significantly improved their compliance with food fortification standards in the span of three years. Together, these producers reach more than 90 percent of the Nigerian population. From 2017 to 2020, the population reached with wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid increased from 54 percent to 92 percent; the population reached with sugar fortified with Vitamin A increased from 31 percent to 96 percent; and salt iodization levels were maintained at 95 percent.
“The private sector remains the engine of growth for the Nigerian economy,” said Aliko Dangote, Chairman of the Aliko Dangote Foundation. By creating a common set of compliance standards, while also giving companies the tools they need to effectively fortify their foods, we are creating a sustainable path to delivering Nigerians food that will help them live healthier, more productive lives. Better nutrition for our consumers means better health and economic development for our nation.”
Edible oil fortified with Vitamin A also made progress, but to a lesser degree, with the population reached with fortified cooking oil increasing from 25 percent to 32 percent. Unlike the other staples, however, the edible oil companies participating in the CEO forum represent closer to 40 percent of the nation’s total production volume.
To put the scale of these achievements in perspective, an additional 125.7 million Nigerians now have access to sugar fortified with vitamin A; an additional 73.5 million have access to wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid; and an additional 13.8 million have access to cooking oil fortified with vitamin A.
“Given the impacts of Covid-19 on our economy, I am particularly impressed with the leadership we have seen from our food companies,” said Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Federal Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment. “Our industry leaders have shown that even during an international public health crisis and an economic crisis, we can still deliver good nutrition for all citizens, including our poorest, through production and distribution of widely consumed fortified staple foods.”
The efforts are part of the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) project focused on increasing consumer access to adequately fortified foods, implemented by TechnoServe with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Significant work remains to achieve project goals and maximize public health impact. Of particular emphasis is working to sustain progress and to ensure that fortified cooking oil achieves similar success.
“Vitamin A is one of the most critical nutrients kids need to grow up healthy—but too few kids receive a sufficient amount in their diet,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The world needs to fortify more foods with Vitamin A. The leaders in this meeting have already shown what’s possible for wheat flour, salt, and sugar. I hope that by the next time we meet, cooking oil will be added to the list.”
One reason for the slower progress is that the edible oil industry is less centralized than other staple foods, requiring coordination across more stakeholders. TechnoServe will be working on further technical assistance to oil millers who want to participate in the multi-stakeholder effort. In addition, they will support relevant government agencies to improve its efforts on regular testing of imported edible oil at the ports of entry.
To strengthen industry-wide compliance, TechnoServe has been working with private sector partners to launch Nigeria’s first-ever Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI). The MFI helps companies assess compliance with Nigerian Fortification Standards. Companies’ overall scores are presented in a dashboard that is updated annually to show progress and gaps, contributing to an industry-wide platform that emphasizes quality standards.
The forum also reviewed progress on the development of the Joint Regulatory Framework (JRF), which would coordinate the enforcement of industry activities by the National Agency for Food & Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).
Worldwide, more than 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient malnutrition—deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals that are integral to healthy growth and development. Fortifying staple foods—such as oil, flour, salt and sugar—with vitamins and minerals has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective and scalable tools to combat malnutrition and save lives.
One out of three Nigerian children under five are stunted—their bodies and brains deprived of the key nutrients they need to fully develop to reach their full potential. Over the long-term, stunting results in a 10 to 17 percent loss of wages. When multiplied across the nation, it’s estimated that Nigeria loses more than US$1.5 billion in GDP annually as a result of diminished productivity and increased healthcare costs.
“If Nigeria is really serious about creating jobs, expanding its markets and growing its economy, nutrition and food systems should be put in the centre of the conversation” said Larry Umunna, West Africa Regional Director, TechnoServe.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 50 studies found that large-scale fortification programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) have led to dramatic reductions in serious disease in those countries, helping to achieve a 34% reduction in anemia from improved iron stores; a 74% reduction in goitre and a significant reduction in iodine deficiency; a 41% decrease in neural tube defects due to reductions of folate deficiency among women of reproductive age; and an approximate reduction in vitamin A deficiency (VAD) for three million children (0-9 years), significantly reducing their risk of mortality.
The event was co-convened by the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and TechnoServe.
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ABOUT THE ALIKO DANGOTE FOUNDATION
Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) was established with a mission to enhance opportunities for social change through strategic investments that improve health and wellbeing, promote quality education, and broaden economic empowerment opportunities for individuals and communities. The primary focus of Aliko Dangote Foundation is nutrition, with wraparound interventions centred on health, education, empowerment, and humanitarian relief. In all the Foundation’s initiatives, partnerships and collaboration are an integral part of its strategy and approach, working closely with subject matter experts, local authorities and institutions, state and national governments, and other change agents. At the international level and beyond the Foundation provides financial and technical support to a number of continental and global initiatives and platforms/institutions to strengthen nutrition integration into their developmental portfolio and pipelines. The Foundation embraces investments in education as fundamental to the development of a nation’s human capital and the capacity of an individual to earn. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the foundation is led by the MD/CEO Ms Zouera Youssoufou under the direction of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, GCON.
ABOUT THE BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and fighting hunger and poverty. In the United States, it seeks to significantly improve education so that all young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.
Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.
Tobi Durotoye, TechnoServe NG; T +234 903 781 0177; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca Regan-Sachs, TechnoServe US: T +1 202 650 5713; email@example.com