Africa Improved Foods Rwanda
Africa should feed Africa. By producing nutritious meals from locally sourced grains, AIF is tackling malnutrition and revolutionizing aid.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Africa Improved Foods (AIF)
Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
DRC: Goma, Bukavu
South Sudan: nationwide
AIF's product portfolio presented by Aline.
Maize being loaded into trucks rented by AIF in the field.
AIF offering free maize threshing services to farmers in the field.
AIF's team threshing maize at a cooperative's storage facilities.
AIF offering free maize threshing services to Rwandan farmers
Dr. Klaus Kraemer during a Q&A about AIF's nutritional products with farmers from COTUMU Cooperative.
Representatives from AIF, DSM, World Vision and Sight & Life during a field visit to COTUMU Cooperative in Rwanda's Gakenke District. COTUMU is one of many cooperatives that AIF purchases maize from directly.
Africa Improved Foods' manufacturing facility in Kigali, Rwanda
AIF employees packing nutritional products.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Malnutrition and stunting rates in East Africa are over 35%. To counter this, Africa imports thousands of tons of humanitarian food aid every year. Foreign aid can compromise economic independence and prevent the local private sector from developing a sustainable solution to malnutrition. Africa has enough agricultural resources to feed itself and address malnutrition locally. To compete with foreign aid suppliers, the continent needs high-quality local production facilities that can leverage its agricultural resources.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
AIF’s mission is to curb malnutrition in Africa by making available high quality, affordable, locally sourced nutritious foods. By shifting production to Africa and including local farmers in our value chain, we are providing a sustainable local solution to malnutrition whilst contributing to the local economy via agricultural and private sector development initiatives. Value is shared between farmers, AIF’s employees and the beneficiaries/consumers of our fortified foods.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
In 2017, AIF’s fortified nutritious porridge reached almost 2 million vulnerable and low-income consumers in East Africa through subsidized programmes with WFP and the Government of Rwanda. In Rwanda alone, 100,000 infants above the age of 6-months and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have received free access to complementary nutritious porridges through the country’s network of health centres. AIF also provided 3.5 million nutritious porridge meals to 46 local district hospitals. These were produced using 7,500 metric tons of maize sourced from Rwandan and Ugandan farmers. Our local sourcing gave farmers access to a reliable market and significantly reduced the need for environmentally unfriendly commodity or aid imports by ship/ truck. Furthermore, AIF paid maize farmers directly in cash and offered them free transport and post-harvest handling services. This provided farmers with timely income and working capital allowing them to immediately prepare for the next planting season.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
AIF was incorporated with support from its shareholders; DSM, IFC, FMO and DFID. To ensure financial sustainability, AIF cross-subsidizes its products. AIF mostly caters to non-profit programmes and organizations whose beneficiaries belong to the most impoverished and vulnerable segments of society. To make our products affordable to non-profit programmes, AIF launched a range of commercial products under the “Nootri” brand. These are available in shops across East Africa. The profits accrued from the Nootri products subsidize our “non-profit” products. This way, AIF aims to sustainably improve the nutrition of those that are most undernourished.
1. Individual donations or gifts: na
2. Grants: 15%
3. Corporate contributions: na
4. Earned income: 85%
5. Other: na
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
AIF is unique because it operates as a large business yet it has very strong non-profit motives. The first non-profit target that it is held accountable for by its board is to achieve a 16% reduction in malnutrition in Rwanda by 2020. Secondly, AIF has made commitments to locally source more than 50% of the 28,000MT of maize and 12,000MT of soy it needs. AIF’s non-profit motives are underlined by the fact that it is contractually bound to reinvest any profits that it might make in the region.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
At the World Economic Forum in 2007, African leaders argued that the humanitarian aid that flows into the continent from aboard does more harm than good. The leaders argued that, whilst food assistance keeps people alive, it is an unsustainable solution that hinders their economic independence and growth. The argument resonated. In the years that followed, AIF’s shareholders started AIF with the goal of revolutionising humanitarian food aid.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Upon recommendation from others
Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
AIF’s main beneficiaries are (a) the Rwandan farmers from whom we procure maize, and (b) the retailers and consumers of our nutritious products.
In Rwanda, we offer thousands of farmers free post-harvest and transport services as well as fair market prices and quick cash payments. We establish week-long AIF collection centres at cooperatives during each harvest season, where farmers are able to sell us their maize without them needing to thresh or transport it over large distances. AIF currently operates these collection centres, but has recently partnered with World Vision Rwanda and a local logistics company to reach even more farmers.
In addition to producing foods, we frequently engage healthcare officials, regional authorities and consumers in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC to raise awareness about micronutrient deficiencies and food safety. Every two weeks we organise two-hour factory visits for schools, farmers and shopkeepers to demonstrate high food safety standards and explain the concept of food fortification. We release educational videos, flyers and radio advertisements on nutrition and organise public Q&A sessions with our nutritionists. Additionally, our commercial packaging also include informative nutritional facts, in Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English and French. Our partners at the Sight & Life Foundation advise us on how to maximise the impact of our nutritional programmes.
We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.
Most of AIF’s products are supplementary foods for infants as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Nutrient deficiencies during the “First 1000 Days” of a child’s life impede growth and cognitive development and greatly affect people’s lives as they grow older. Our products address these deficiencies as they contain a vitamin & mineral premix that is tailored to supplement the local diet. In particular, research found that the regional diet lacks Iron and Vitamin A, leading us to increase the dosages of these nutrients in our foods. Our nutrition experts, suppliers and research partners give us technology and knowledge that enables us to adjust the dosage of individual nutrients in products. This allows us to very accurately target causes of malnutrition at a crucial stage in a person's life.
AIF's commercial products are available to all consumers in East Africa. We reach the poorest in Rwandan society - who cannot afford to spend their money on processed foods - via a subsidized programme with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Products are purchased at cost price by MoH and distributed to all healthcentres. There, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can register to receive enough free nutritious porridge to feed themselves and their children three times per day. Local authorities ensure the poorest register and CHAI monitors the supply chain and nutritional impact.
Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Firstly, AIF creates value for the Rwandan farmers its sources from. AIF gives farmers access to a large reliable buyer, offering fair prices as well as free post-harvest and transport services. There are no other companies offering these benefits to farmers.
Secondly, AIF creates value for the consumers of its nutritious foods. As mentioned, our products are rich in essential nutrients that East Africans currently lack in their diet. By increasing the dosages of these nutrients in our products and encouraging regular consumption, AIF is addressing malnutrition.
Thirdly, AIF is one of Rwanda’s largest companies employing about 300 people. The company maintains high quality standards and strict operating procedures, exposing local employees to the best practices in the global food industry. These practices include reusing heat throughout the production process (to reduce energy consumption) and eliminating wastewater with a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant.
How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?
AIF two biggest accounts are a 5-year offtake agreement with the World Food Programme for 25,000MT of Super Cereal Plus (intended for addressing the South Sudan famine) and a 5-year offtake agreement with the Government of Rwanda for 5,000MT of Fortified Corn Soya Blends. This year, these sales have fallen short of the full programme costs. As we produce less than 3000MT of commercial Nootri products, it is important for Nootri to quickly become profitable enough to cross-subsidize the WFP and GoR accounts. AIF’s business model does not rely on grants but, as a young company, we need the time and financial support to ensure our Nootri products become a commercial success so that AIF can continue to support non-profit programmes.
How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?
AIF's goal is to produce nutritious meals from locally sourced grains, ultimately tackling malnutrition and revolutionizing aid. By winning this prize, we will be able to boost our commercial products and achieve the financial sustainability needed to cover the costs of our non-profit programmes. Importantly, the prize would allow us to scale-up and advance our social mission, proving to aid organizations that Africa can feed Africa. We hope that our success would encourage other food producers to invest in local production facilities so that shared value can be created for African farmers, consumers and investors.
How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?
Winning this prize would help AIF boost its commercial products. We would improve and expand the rural distribution of Nootri and launch an awareness raising campaign about Nootri' and its nutritional benefits. Our ultimate goal is to make Nootri profitable enough without compromising affordability.
The prize will also allow AIF to extend its collection centres and establish centralised drying and threshing facilities. This would reduce post-harvest losses and help preserve the quality of local maize, allowing AIF to buy high quality maize from the smallest and most remote farmers in Rwanda.
The above would improve our contributions to nutrition and rural development in Rwanda in a sustainable manner.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?
This year, AIF procured approximately 20% of its maize from Rwandan farmers. With the remaining 80% being imported from Zambia, Uganda and South Africa due to the unavailability of high-quality maize in Rwanda. AIF's policy is to source locally if possible and to import if it is not. The biggest opportunity for scaling impact is to improve the maize quality in Rwanda as this would allow AIF to reach more farmers. As such, one of key strategies for scaling impact is to improve post-harvest infrastructure and create incentives for farmers to improve their post-harvest handling.
In the coming years, AIF is branching out to Ethiopia to replicate its business model there. By producing fortified foods in Ethiopia, AIF aims to provide a sustainable solution to the country’s high stunting rates (approx. 40%) whilst contributing to rural development.
Lastly, AIF also aims to diversify its product portfolio by creating other types of affordable nutritious foods such as fortified snacks.
Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?
AIF employs 300 people, of which 150 are part-time staff that have been hired through service providers (e.g. security, cleaning and transport). About 90% of AIF’s employees are Rwandan, other employees are from Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Burundi. AIF is led by a British CEO – Amar Ali. Amar is supported by a team of Rwandan, Burundian, Indian and Dutch managers. As the team evolves, the team will become increasingly Rwandan as non-Rwandans are only hired for positions that AIF has not been able to fill locally. The aim is to get Rwandans to replace the non-Rwandans once possible. For example, the Dutch Finance and Operations Managers are training Rwandans to take on their responsibilities. Amar reports to the board, which includes senior representatives from DSM, IFC, DFID, FMO and CHAI.`
Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?
This year AIF won the price for “Best Tax Payer” in Rwanda. All previous grants that AIF received were shareholder donations aimed at (a) improving local sourcing (together with World Vision) and (b) supporting the development of new commercial products.
Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?
AIF engages donors, governments, UN organizations and NGOs in East Africa to demonstrate that humanitarian assistance can be coupled with rural development. We are demonstrating that high quality foods can be bought locally and that there is no need for foreign food aid. We are pushing other food producers in the region to improve the maize and soy value chain by training farmers, investing in post-harvest infrastructure and creating incentives for small farmers to become suppliers. Furthermore, we are advocating for stricter food quality standards in Rwanda. In particular for aflatoxins, a highly carcinogenic but very prevalent fungus in local grains used to produce local foods. AIF is taking many measures against aflatoxin development.
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018
Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018