East African entrepreneurs among the Finalist selected for the SUN competition

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Three entrepreneurs from Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya are among 21 finalists in this year’s SUN Pitch Competition  where African and Asian entrepreneurs will pitch their innovative business ideas to address malnutrition.

As the COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to the food system, the pitch competition, to take place on 30th July 2020, will highlight the innovation and investment opportunities within the private sector to increase access to nutrition in low and middle income markets.

Segond Fidens is the owner of Park&Pick a Rwanda online grocery store offering home delivery services. The startup buys, cleans, sorts and delivers up to 208 fresh agricultural products from partner vendors/farms to homes around Kigali.

Launched in March 2019 Tanzania startup Sanavita headed by Jolenta Joseph addresses malnutrition by focusing on hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiency). Sanavita produces and

processes crops with high micronutrient contents among them orange fleshed sweet potatoes. pro vitamin A maize and high iron and zinc beans.

Fidalis Mujibi runs USOMI Limited, a Kenyan technical services provision company which aims to transform rural farmer market access systems, with a special focus on productivity and income growth for rural women and youth.

Over 500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 24 countries applied to this second edition of the SUN Pitch Competition. Organised by the SUN Business Network, 21 shortlisted finalists were selected through a series of national and virtual competitions and have undertaken comprehensive nutrition and business development training in preparation for the final. The selected entrepreneurs will pitch their innovative solutions for improved nutrition to compete for a range of cash and business mentorship prizes in the race to be crowned the 2020 SUN Pitch Competition Champion.

The SUN Pitch Competition aims to showcase nutrition-related investments from SMEs that can catalyse innovation in local food systems and improve the affordability and accessibility of nutritious and safe foods. “Achieving the nutrition targets of the Sustainable Development Goals will require more partnerships between businesses, investors, governments and UN agencies. The SUN Pitch Competition 2020 brings all these actors together to support entrepreneurs in emerging markets to transform their food systems,” emphasises Fatiha Terki, Deputy Director Nutrition, UN World Food Programme, co-convenor of the SUN Business Network. 

The first edition of the SUN Pitch Competition was held at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum in Kenya in 2018, where Ope Olanrewaju of Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics from Nigeria was crowned the winner. Following the competition, the 2018 SUN Pitch Competition Champion went on to complete a substantial deal with an investor, thanks to his participation in the competition.

“The competition process was as exciting as it was enlightening. I gained lots of insight during the process as to how we could improve the business,” enthuses Ope. Winning the SUN Pitch Competition has enabled Ope to build the resilience of his company and to better meet the changing needs of consumers, especially during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. To this year’s finalists, Ope’s advice is to: “Innovate, innovate, innovate to improve the business in ways that improve the lives of people around you. Embracing a culture of continuous innovation is so important, now more than ever.”

 For the 2020 Pitch Competition, the most innovative solution for improved nutrition will receive a cash prize of US$20,000 as the overall winner. The first and second runners up will receive US$10,000 and US$7,000, respectively. In addition, the SUN Pitch Competition sponsors will each present US$10,000 cash prizes, which include the Royal DSM 3A Nutrition Award, the Cargill Prize on Innovation to Enable Access to Improved Nutrition, and the GAIN Food Technology Innovation Prize. Supporting partners, AGREA and Base of the Pyramid Innovation Center are also contributing mentorship prizes.

The Royal DSM prize will be awarded to the company that offers ‘3A nutrition’. “We need to make nutritious food widely Accessible, we need to make it Affordable and we need to make it Aspirational,” explains judge Fokko Wientjes, Vice President of Malnutrition Programmes and Partnerships at Royal DSM. “That is why I will be looking for those entrepreneurs that offer a delicious choice; those that have been thinking about the consumer and about products that are extremely attractive, whilst being nutritious.”

“A good pitch for me is somebody who is really passionate about their solution,” says Charlotte Pedersen, Senior Advisor at GAIN, who has been impressed by the diversity and innovation of the finalists’ business concepts. GAIN will award the Food Technology Innovation Prize to the entrepreneur who provides a nutritious food solution that is also affordable, safe and tasty.

Improving accessibility to healthier foods through greater market access, innovative reformulation, collaborative partnership, consumer education, or new delivery channels is what Cargill will be particularly looking for when awarding one SME with their Innovation Enable Access to Good Nutrition Prize.

Cherrie Atilano, a member of the GAIN board and founder of AGREA – an agro-social enterprise in the Philippines – will offer a unique, strategic business development mentorship package to one outstanding entrepreneur. Cherrie is looking for clear and concise pitches that outline the nutrition problem and the proposed solution. “I am looking for innovation, creativity, value addition and impact,” she enthuses. The BoP Innovation Center will also award a mentorship package to the overall winner of the competition, with a focus on identifying opportunities for the award recipient to digitalise their business.

The profiles of the 21 Africa and Asia finalists can be found on the SUN Pitch competition website, along with more information on sponsors and partners: https://bit.ly/30O89Nu

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