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SUN Pitch Competition: Showcasing innovations in local food systems

  |   SUN Business Network

The Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN), in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and local partners, has organised the first Africa edition of the Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition. The competition aims to showcase SMEs that are innovatively improving diet and tackling malnutrition across the continent and highlight new investment opportunities. Finalists selected from a series of local pitch competitions across Africa will take part in the SUN Pitch Competition final, to be held during the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum (NAIF) on 16th October in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Challenge

SMEs occupy a range of positions along the agri-food value chain and as the largest providers of food in Africa, they are critical in shaping the nutritional outcomes of local food systems. Yet, barriers to accessing finance mean that agri-food SMEs are not achieving their full potential in developing and scaling up market-based solutions that can improve the consumption of safe and nutritious foods.

GAIN’s Executive Director, Lawrence Haddad, says “we believe in the enormous potential of national food businesses in Africa to address this challenge by producing more affordable, nutritious foods. However, for this to happen new investments must be unlocked for SMEs along with new policy and lending instruments”. The SUN Pitch Competition aims to bridge this gap by providing technical assistance, business support and linking SMEs to investors. This will establish the commercial viability of nutrition sensitive businesses, showcase innovation and position nutrition entrepreneurs for growth and scale.

The Process

A series of local pitch competitions are run to select finalists for the regional SUN Pitch Competition. Each country running a local pitch competition opens a call for proposals around a local nutrition theme. Applicants are shortlisted by a local selection panel against four main criteria; nutrition impact, commercial viability, scale and innovation. Successful SMEs are offered technical assistance to prepare for the local pitch competition finals through a series of training sessions and bootcamps.

Local Pitch Competitions

Local pitch competitions are currently being held in Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia and Zambia, and around 400 SMEs are expected to apply. In Nigeria, the ‘NutriPitch’ competition received 141 applications, 10 of whom were shortlisted to participate in a ‘bootcamp’ which included pitch training sessions, individual mentorship and one to one reviews of the entrepreneurs’ business plans.

In Tanzania, a total of 53 entrepreneurs applied to the Lishe Accelerator looking for access to funds, new markets and technical support. 67% of applications were from female-owned and led businesses, demonstrating that women are at the forefront of the battle to improve access to safe and nutritious foods in Tanzania. A local selection panel comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, GAIN and business accelerators are currently in the process of shortlisting 20 SMEs who will progress to the next stage.

Local pitch competition applications are still open in Mozambique, Zambia and a combined regional competition for entrepreneurs in Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia. Application information can be found here:  https://vc4a.com/sun-business-network/sbn-regional-pitch-competition.

Winners of the local pitch competition finals will be announced in the coming weeks, and 21 SMEs will have the chance to pitch their investment opportunity to a panel of high level judges at the Africa regional SUN Pitch Competition final at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum (NAIF).

SUN Pitch Competition at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum

NAIF is a first-of-a-kind event which aims to position nutrition as a promising new investment area. The event will bring together leaders from commerce, agriculture, development agencies, academia along with investors to share their experiences, present research results, explore collaborations and spark new ideas – all with the aim of developing new projects and attracting investment for high-impact nutrition businesses. NAIF marks an important milestone in the roadmap towards reframing the dialogue around nutrition, raising the profile of nutrition as an impact investment opportunity and showcasing business that can improve access to nutritious foods.

By connecting entrepreneurs with investors, the SUN Pitch Competition at NAIF highlights the important role of commercially viable national SMEs in responding to local nutrition priorities and their need for access to financing and technical assistance to achieve this.

Related Information

• The Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition: https://vc4a.com/sun-business-network/sbn-regional-pitch-competition

• Nutrition Africa Investor Forum: www.gainhealth.org/knowledge-centre/event/nutrition-africa-investor-forum

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