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.
Mr. 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 holds back women and children’s health and development.
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 government had committed to improve the regulatory environment around food fortification.
She said 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 actualization 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.