Nutrition Finance

Reflections from AU High Level Dialogue on Nutrition Financing 2023

Public and private sector actors recognise the need for nutrition financing. Maureen Muketha and Charles Opiyo from GAIN reflect on their experiences at African Union's High Level Dialogue on Nutrition Financing recently held in Lesotho.

Well-nourished citizens are a cornerstone to a thriving economy.  For this to be achieved resources must be sought and adequately allocated and utilised. 

The African Union (AU), during the 35th AU Assembly, held in February 2022, endorsed and launched 2022 as the AU Year of Nutrition under the theme, “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on The African Continent: Strengthening Agro-Food Systems, Health and Social Protection Systems for the Acceleration of Human, Social and Economic Capital Development.” It was during this meeting that His Majesty King Letsie III, Head of State of the Kingdom of Lesotho, role as the AU Nutrition Champion was extended for another term. To further this, the AU organised a High-level Dialogue on Nutrition Financing in Maseru, Lesotho in March 2023. The meeting convened private sector actors and parliamentarians for increased domestic resources for nutrition.

This was a two-pronged meeting: on the first day,  a technical & knowledge sharing session on the role of private sector in improving food and nutrition security  A panel discussion followed on strategies and opportunities for financing for nutrition in Africa; and the second day was high level engagement with African Leaders for Nutrition and Ministers of Finance and Development Planning.

During the knowledge sharing session, SUN Business Network Kenya  among other organisations presented a case study on private sector engagement in nutrition; sub- national Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) engagement and the innovative approach by Nairobi-based SME, Kwanza Tukule (Swahili for ‘first let us eat’). The company uses biogas, a form of clean energy to prepare pre-cooked pulses before packing and distributing them to over 300 food vendors in peri-urban areas. As an SBN partner, Kwanza Tukule received support on market research and business planning. A grant from GAIN has also enabled the business to expand and distribute nutritious foods, including yellow beans that are bio-fortified with zinc, iron, and vitamin A, which reach 150,000 consumers every day. This provided a practical case study of private sector contribution in improving nutrition outcomes and the need for supporting private sector players through various ways such as financing, technical assistance, policy/ strategy development or review.  

Later, during the panel discussion on strategies and opportunities for financing for Nutrition, GAIN highlighted Nutrition Enterprise Unit projects. These include Nutrition Impact at Scale – currently implemented in six African Countries and also Nutritious Food Financing (N3F) which is targeting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa and it aims at preparing companies to tap into large investments in nutrition.

The second day featured a high level engagement where His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho gave an overview of the continent’s nutrition situation based on the continental nutrition score card. Key commitment pronouncements as highlighted below were made by African nations:

  1. To prioritise investment in nutrition to accelerate Africa economic transformation and attainment of Agenda 2063 objectives.
  2. To build the capacity of the of the African Union Member States to fill the investment gap with their domestic resources; and adopt and advocate for innovative financing strategies for nutrition such as sugar and fat taxation among others. 
  3. The private sector to leverage capital sources and funding routes to complement government efforts in filling the funding gaps for nutrition;
  4. To promote governments and private sector dialogues and partnership that aim at realigning national economic priorities with public health imperatives such as the promotion of healthy diets and sustainable food chains and the shaping of consumer choice for healthy diets
  5. Strengthen parliamentarians leading and strategic role in adopting and enforcing the right legislation, allocating appropriate domestic resources with respect to commitments made, and supporting accountability mechanisms at national level.
  6. To strengthen parliamentary engagement for healthy diets and support them with tools and model laws to be better gate keepers of nutrition and healthy diets at country level.
  7.  Support the implementation of the Abidjan Declaration action and popularize it at all AU policy organs including, Pan African Parliament and all the relevant specialised technical committees to advocate for multi-sectoral investments.

Nutrition remains a multi-stakeholder and cross-cutting theme, these players include but not limited to those in agriculture, public health, education, business and water. While governments must remain in the driver’s seat as the agenda setting body and convener of resources, knowledge and expertise of different stakeholders in the fight against malnutrition, various stakeholders have varying roles in providing solutions.  Private sector continues to play a vital role as a food system to promote availability of nutritious, safe and delicious food. As practitioners, they too can be great contributors in nutrition financing through various mechanisms such as mainstreaming corporate social responsibility among others. The Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy 2015-2025 gives different member states and opportunity to gear up their efforts towards realisation of  the theme. 

Clarion call: All investors to consider investing in one of the most investable programs since every dollar invested in nutrition interventions has the potential to result in up to 22 dollars in economic returns. Look no further, we welcome all private sector players to invest in nutrition since many hands make work lighter as we work toward achieving the global nutrition targets and different commitments at the global or continental level.



Authors Profile

Maureen Muketha is the Senior Associate, SUN Business Network and Charles Opiyo is the Influencing and Advocacy Manager. They are based at GAIN Nairobi Office.