Leading trade show tackles the challenge of affordable and accessible food in Africa
Russia’s war in Ukraine has shone a spotlight on the ongoing food security crisis in Africa, as disruptions to international commodity markets and trade flows to the continent have caused the already high food prices to rise further. The UN predicts African population growth of over 200% by mid-century, expecting the continent to have 2.49 billion mouths to feed by 2050 and be home to two out of every five children on the planet.
The increasing challenges faced by African leaders in creating a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable food system to feed its exploding population was one of several important discussions held at this year’s Africa’s Big 7 trade show, the region’s leading Food & Beverage event that ran between 19 and 21 June 2022 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg.
Opening the three-day workshop programme was an interactive dialogue focusing on better food for people, planet, and business, moderated by food entrepreneur Miles Kubheka with panelists Nicola Coundourakis, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Food Equity, Equality & Diversity (FEED) and Dr Naude Malan, Senior Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. In the workshop, the trio looked at collaborative strategies to integrate dietary change into food system transformation that support better nutrition, leverage technologies, and find solutions for sustainable, inclusive food systems.
Dr Malan called the hunger crisis manufactured, saying that Africa is already producing enough food to feed its population. Coundourakis agreed and added that while our population is dependent on just a few crops (like maize), there are so many more indigenous crops that could be utilised.
Regenerative farming was put forward as a solution to the food crisis by both Dr Malan and Coundourakis, with Malan saying that it is more profitable and more equitable long-term. “You don’t need a lot of money to get started with regenerative farming, only knowledge,” said Malan. Contrary to popular belief, he argued that regenerative farming at a local level does not need to lead to a lower yield, but can maintain the yield of traditional linear farming, while creating greater value overall.
The conversation around local production continued in a fireside chat moderated by Adri Venter, Business Development Manager at Danlink Ingredients, where the focus turned to functional ingredients and how shifting trends will impact what local ingredients are driving innovation.
Venter asked panelists Chipita Mzungu, R&D Manager at SIQALO Food and Martin Dovey, Business Development Director at Kerry Ingredients, whether localisation of ingredients is even realisable in today’s global economy.
Dovey responded: “Not only is it more than realisable, but it’s happening already. Using the ingredients we produce at Kerry Ingredients as an example, we have just invested in a R700 million taster facility to supply the South African market, and our strategy behind that is localisation.”
He commented that while the ball may already be rolling, the South African market still has limited opportunities to buy local ingredients, and hopes that in five years, the situation will be very different.”
Chipita agreed that the localisation of ingredients is a very relevant topic for the South African market, citing Covid as a wake-up call for the local F&B industry, due to the problems of accessibility of functional ingredients.
“It is very important for us as an industry to start looking more seriously at the localisation of ingredients, which has become a growing global trend, as localised, functional ingredients will help to develop the greater F&B market,” she said.
In addition to the full workshop programme, two industry competitions return to the Africa’s Big 7 exhibition floor this year, both of which were open for public entry.
Daily, amateur, and professional bakers alike had the opportunity to shine in one of the many baking competitions taking place under the SA Bakers Challenge.
In the National Burger Challenge, local and amateur cooks competed for a R5,000 cash prize, which saw Hector Mnyayiza walking away with the title thanks to his Hector’s Beef Burger.
“In its 19th year, we are delighted at the success of Africa’s Big 7 2022, which provided buyers and sellers from across the continent with a unique opportunity to connect face-to-face and develop new partnerships for a prosperous road to recovery,” said Evan Schiff, Portfolio Director of Food, Hospitality and Trade at dmg events.