Changing Narratives Africa: On the Sidelines of the UN Food Systems Summit
On 21st September 2021, Changing Narratives Africa in collaboration with Sahel Consulting, Nourishing Africa and Dine diaspora organized a virtual session to explore “Africa’s Pivotal Role in Shaping the Global Food Ecosystem”. On the sidelines of the first-ever UN Global Food Systems Summit, this event highlighted Africa’s strategic role in the global food ecosystem and explored opportunities that exist for the continent to feed itself and shape the future of the food and nutrition landscape. A diverse lineup of stakeholders anchored discussions on the critical steps needed to revitalize and amplify the reach and reputation of African cuisine, and to ensure that African food products have a seat at the global table.
Welcome remarks were delivered by representatives from all three organizing bodies of the event. The first welcome was by Rahmat Eyinfujowo, the Co-Founder/Co-CEO of Nourishing Africa, an innovative hub designed to provide agri-food entrepreneurs with the tools and skills to connect and scale their businesses. Temi Adegoroye, partner at Sahel Consulting also gave a warm welcome to the participants and introduced the groundbreaking work Sahel Consulting is doing to transform Africa’s agriculture landscape. The final welcome address was delivered by Nina Oduro, The Co-Founder of Dine Diaspora, a Washington-based agency that connects people and brands to African culture.
The event’s Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. Edward Mabaya, a research professor at the department of global development, Cornell University. He highlighted the fact that Africa suffers from the ‘danger of a single story’ especially where food is concerned. There is a need to tell the other side of the story where Africa’s positive contribution to the global food system is brought to light. Africa is a rich and diverse continent in all aspects especially culture and food, and it needs to start weighing in all 3 layers of food on a global scale; commodity, cuisine, and brand.
A presentation by Ndidi Nwuneli MFR, Founder of Changing Narratives Africa and Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sahel Consulting explained the story behind the creation of Changing Narratives Africa.
“Food is such an important component of global trade and currently, Africa only contributes to 2% of global trade (ustr.gov). There is a need for the rest of the world to know about African food and to celebrate Africa’s contribution to food history and the global food system.” – Ndidi Nwuneli
This session was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ndidi. The distinguished panelists were- Paul Newnham, SDG2 Advocacy Hub Coordinator; Micheal Elégbèdé, owner of ÌTÀN test Kitchen; Perteet Spencer, Co-Founder of Ayo Foods; Emeka Okafor, Co-Founder of Maker Faire Africa; and Moky Makura, Executive Director of Africa No Filter.
The panelists emphasized the need to take a different approach towards showcasing Africa’s stories around food, and the identity of its ingredients. Oftentimes, the global narrative is around food security, poverty, and what Africa is lacking, but Africans need to be at the forefront of celebrating and sharing our true experiences, culture, and stories with the world. This can be achieved by establishing a strong brand presence at home and creating avenues and distribution systems to enable these brands to follow the diaspora wherever they go. The world deserves to experience the diversity of African food, not only in restaurants but also in supermarkets and grocery stores. African governments also need to step up and create an enabling environment that supports food entrepreneurs with innovative policies. A thriving food ecosystem can be the driving engine that propels the development of other sectors in developing societies.
The riveting panel session was followed by breakout sessions where participants engaged directly with the following entrepreneurs who are paving the way for African foods to reach a global audience- Ruth Nakaar, Founder of Fudena; Ehime Eigbe, Founder of Sweetkiwi, Temi Jebutu, Managing Director, AACE Foods; and Adefunke Adeyemi, Regional Director, International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The event ended with these entrepreneurs summarizing the key takeaways from their sessions and some action points towards reclaiming the narrative around food and ensuring the African heritage reaches all corners of the world. First, African entrepreneurs should not be afraid to partner with mainstream brands and take advantage of social media influencers to get more presence in the global space. Secondly, entrepreneurs that have broken through the barrier need to build strong foundations to enable upcoming businesses to plug in and scale easily. Thirdly, food entrepreneurs need to be poised and ready to grasp opportunities. Collaboration between African brands rather than unhealthy competition is key to building a stronger community and narrative. Finally, entrepreneurs need to key into aviation services as this is the fastest and most efficient means to move products around the world, especially food. Cross-sectoral collaboration between aviation, agro- sectors, and other private businesses would go a long way towards creating an efficient system that delivers African food and stories to the rest of the world.
The conference recorded over 180 participants from within and outside Nigeria.
The video recording of the conference can be accessed HERE