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UN Announces SMSE winners in Africa and the Middle East

Thirteen small- and medium-sized businesses from Africa and the Middle East have won the “Good Food for All” competition, held in conjunction with the UN Food Systems Summit

Selected and shortlisted from nearly 2,000 applications, from 135 countries, these winners will showcase inspiring and impactful solutions for improving access to healthy, sustainable food. They form part of a global set of 50 winners – half of whom are youth-led, and nearly half are women-led – who will all share US$100,000 in cash prizes.

“Small businesses are the hidden heroes of our food systems, managing at least half of our food economies and keeping food on our plates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. “We must understand the challenges they face and work together to ensure they remain at the heart of efforts to improve the future of food.”

Each winner was selected on the basis of how their businesses contributed to healthier, more sustainable and equitable food for the communities; the strength of their vision for the future; and how well they communicate the current and future impacts of their business.

“Through our work, we seek to create a sustainable food system that supports health and environmental protection,” stated Blayne Tesfaye, co-founder and CEO of TruLuv, a women-led granola company in Ethiopia which was amongst the winners.

Food SMEs operate in the toughest markets, having a real impact on rural poverty and hunger, while ensuring resilience to shocks such as COVID-19 and climate change. Local production by Burkinabé company InnoFaso, aims to substitute for imports. In Madagascar, Massova works with smallholders to grow sustainably and process high quality products, such as coconut oil and black pepper. “We put our skills and experiences at the service of local development to have lasting impacts on the lives of rural communities, while preserving our natural environment,” emphasises owner Marina Ny Aina.

Many enterprises are innovating and scaling solutions for nutrition and sustainability. Flamingoo Foods Company Limited in Tanzania uses weather and satellite technology to improve food distribution amidst natural disasters and other shocks. In Nigeria, Coldhubs provides solar-powered cold storage that can be used by smallholders, retailers and wholesalers, to extend the shelf-life of perishable food from two to 21 days.

The future of food and global ecosystems requires new ways of doing business. In Saudi Arabia, saltwater-based agriculture products, systems and services are applied by Red Sea Farms in an innovative way to support the nutritional needs of water-scarce populations. “Combined experience in plant science and agricultural engineering enables us to provide fresh, organic, tasty and accessible products in places where it was not previously possible,” says founder and CEO, Ryan Lefers.

In Kenya, care for the environment and a need to protect valuable coastal and marine biodiversity is the focus for Kuruwitu Conservation Welfare, which works to protect a 30 ha locally-managed marine area (LMMA) known as Tengefu, and shares benefits from enhanced fish catches, and eco-tourism with local communities

The competition winners were announced alongside a new report, based on a global survey of these businesses’ ambition and needs. The report outlines three critical pathways for supporting small businesses in realising their full potential: creating more conducive business environments, offering more positive incentives, and empowering small business leaders to have greater influence in sector planning.