October 16, 2014

Norman Borlaug Centennial Q&A with Ndidi Nwuneli

This post was originally published by the World Food Prize Foundation. The World Food Prize 2014 Borlaug Dialogue international symposium is being held from October 15 – 17 in Des Moines, Iowa to address the question: “Can we sustainably feed the 9 billion people on our planet by the year 2050?”

Norman Borlaug Centennial Q&A's with Experts

In order to shine a spotlight on the amazing agricultural work being done today, and in honor of the Borlaug Centennial year, The World Food Prize invited 2014 Borlaug Dialogue speakers and experts from around the globe to respond to questions regarding their work, their goals and their inspiration.

Ndidi Nwuneli, Cofounder of AACE Foods

If Norman Borlaug posed the following questions to youwhat would you tell him?

Q: Where are the biggest gaps right now in the food system?

A: Tremendous global effort is being placed on the importance of seed, soil health and protection systems to increase yields. However, in West Africa 20-60% of produce goes to waste, with significant variability by value chain, because there has been little to no focus on storage, logistics and processing. There is an urgent need to invest in addressing this glaring imbalance if we plan on seriously addressing the food security crises that confronts the West African region.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young people?

A: To young people, I urge you to use your talents, time, and energy to change our world for the better. I pray that you will find your life’s purpose early in life, and that you will pursue it passionately, diligently and ethically.

Q: How would you explain what you do, and why it’s important, to a 10-year-old?

A: I am a social entrepreneur. What this means is that I work with others to create organizations to address some of the most pressing challenges facing my people.

LEAP Africa is focused on creating a new generation of principled, dynamic and creative leaders on the African continent, by providing training, coaching and research. We work with young people and business owners and help them become change leaders. Since we started, LEAP has published 10 books and trained over 30,000 people, who have started over 500 change projects, impacting over 200,000 people in their communities.

AACE Foods sources herbs, cereals and grains from smallholder farmers and makes them into spices, sauces and food for the Nigerian population. Our products are sold in supermarkets across the country and are also used by other large companies to prepare food.

Sahel Capital provides advice and financing to enterprises who work in agriculture to enable them grow and employ more people.

Q: What is the most interesting project going on right now – yours or someone else’s - that more people should know about?

A: Over the past few years, there have been significant innovations in financing in the agribusiness landscape in Nigeria, linked to the Agricultural Transformation Agenda being spearheaded by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Honorable Minister of Agriculture.

I am fortunate to be engaged in one of such innovations called the Fund for Agriculture Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) which Sahel Capital – a leading agribusiness fund management and advisory firm focused on West Africa– was recently selected to manage in late 2013. This $100 million private equity fund was initiated by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the German government via KFW Development Bank, and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority to address the large gap in long-term, growth-oriented finance for SMEs in the agricultural sector.

FAFIN is an innovative, agriculture-focused investment fund that provides tailored capital and technical assistance solutions to commercially viable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and intermediaries across the agricultural sector in Nigeria using quasi-equity, equity and debt instruments to structure investments. The Fund will invest in such enterprises as part of its mission to catalyze agriculture-led inclusive investment growth in Nigeria, and increase the amount of commercial capital available for agriculture in the country.  Investments will be made in a range of companies which include input providers, producers, processors, logistics and warehouse providers, and financial intermediaries that help catalyze additional capital for SMEs operating along the agricultural value chain.

In addition through FAFIN’s Technical Assistance Facility, which is a unique component of the Fund, it will provide capacity building to agro-processors in which it invests to enable them more effectively partner with smallholder farmers. This could include the provision of extension services, and access to improved seeds and fertilizer, which would enhance farmer yields and livelihoods.

Ultimately, FAFIN will enhance food security and generate inclusive growth in the agriculture sector, including job and wealth creation, while generating commercial returns for its investors.

As a partner with Sahel Capital, I actively engaged in raising funds for the Technical Assistance Facility and building partnerships with organizations that are interested in supporting agricultural development in Nigeria.

Q: What’s one thing the general population could do to make an impact on global food security?

A: The general population must embrace locally grown and processed food and discard the belief that “foreign” food is higher quality and better for them and locally produced food is inferior. This mindset continues to cripple many agroprocessors in Africa who struggle to compete with importers, and this invariably affects the entire agricultural landscape in the region. Sadly, many of the products that come back into Africa as processed products were actually exported from the same countries as raw materials. In addition, while the government has an important role to play in creating an enabling environment for their local agroprocessing industry, sustained demand from the local population will ensure that these agroprocessors can survive and thrive in the medium-long term, and eventually be able to compete globally. This will, in turn, strengthen agricultural value chains in the countries, creating opportunities for all actors, ensuring local investment, profitable growth and food security.

Q: What is one of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

A: My favorite quote is an African proverb which states, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others.” I strongly believe that we can only sustainably address the global food security crises when we partner across sectors, regions, disciplines and divides, sharing knowledge and expertise and human and financial resources, to collectively develop and implement innovative solutions.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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