Africa Improved Foods Rwanda is on a mission to curb malnutrition not only in Rwanda but the East African region as a whole. The newly inaugurated $60 million state of the art Plant located in the Kigali Special Economic Zone is now producing high quality nutritious complementary foods specifically for young children between 6 months and two years as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
The Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources Hon. Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana recently observed that stunting in Rwanda currently stands at 38% among children and that there is need for concerted efforts to address this challenge.
“As a nation, we feel that ending malnutrition is our moral obligation to make sure that no child is deprived of its future,” she said at the official Plant launch, adding that the establishment of the Plant could not have come at a better time.
“The Rwandan Government works very hard to attract private investment to help achieve the country’s developmental goals, and AIF is a good example of how public-private partnerships can be instrumental in speeding up projects, “she said, adding that there is good reason to be proud of AIF’s progress because it has already established itself as a reliable buyer of local raw materials.
AIF Rwanda is currently working with 9,000 smallholder farmers and employing 300 full-time staff in addition to 500 jobs that were created in the construction of the factory.
For AIF’s CEO Amar Ali, the prevailing political stability and fast growing economy were critical aspects in luring the key stakeholders to invest in Rwanda.
AIF Rwanda is a joint venture created in 2015, between the Government of Rwanda and a consortium of four partners: Royal DSM, the majority shareholder; IFC, the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) and the British government’s development finance institution CDC Group.
AIF Rwanda targets to reach about 1 million children in its first year of operations. “Our products are already used in Rwanda and Uganda, and we will soon start exporting to the DR Congo. We are also looking at other markets like Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia as our aim is to be a regional player,” Amar Ali revealed.
Feike Sijbesma has been the driving force behind the AIF project. In 2007, shortly after his appointment as Royal DSM’s CEO, he participated in the World Economic Forum in Davos and that is where he first saw President Kagame who was a panellist.
Sijbesma says he was impressed by the President’s comments and vision, so he managed to get a brief meeting with Kagame, which ultimately led to the establishment of the AIF plant in Kigali. “We are here to tackle malnutrition which is a major problem in this part of the world – almost 38% of children are stunted which is way too many, and this is the major problem we are here to solve,” he said.
“We want to prove the concept that you can manufacture nutritious food locally and I am deeply impressed that Rwanda is leading the way in addressing malnutrition issues in the region,” he added.
“Rwanda is a country that went through difficult times 23 years ago, but the growth achieved since then is remarkable; we want to build on that,” he continued. Africa Improved Foods does not only want to tackle malnutrition, but also underlying issues such as lack of economic development in certain communities and agricultural activity. The Plant aims at sourcing everything locally which will in turn improve the level of productivity and quality throughout the value chain as well as creating jobs. In the medium term, AIF also targets to attract partners to invest in irrigation and is also open to various commercial and non-commercial proposals.
How AIF Rwanda was born
In 2013, Rwanda launched the ‘1000 days’ national campaign to combat malnutrition with the aim of improving maternal and child health in the country.
Two years later, the government of Rwanda entered into a joint venture with other partners to invest in this high technology facility. The objective of the venture was to improve the nutritional status of Rwanda’s population and help address malnutrition by manufacturing high quality complementary nutritious foods for vulnerable groups in Rwanda and the region.
Read this article and more in issue n° 75 of Hope Magazine.