Hivos CEO, Edwin Huizing, and Welthungerhilfe Secretary General, Dr. Till Wahnbaeck, launched the two organisations' cooperation in funding the newly-established Hivos Food and Lifestyle Fund in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Hivos Food and Lifestyle Fund is a lean investment fund, leveraging the networks and reputation of Hivos and Welthungerhilfe to create a superior investment pipeline.
The fund invests in equity and convertible loans for early stage, post revenue, good valued companies. These are scalable ventures on both impact and economic value and support sustainable production and healthy consumption.
The launch of the cooperation was a culmination of a two-day training for entrepreneurs who are disrupting food systems in Southern Africa. Approximately 200 participants attended, including business people, NGOs, entrepreneurs and interested individuals.
"It is our task to help the new generation of young people realise their dreams, and those dreams will be realised by not only starting with a NGO or CSO. It will mainly be started by entrepreneurs whether it’s in food, energy or any other area. I think that’s where the future of this region lies, and for that you need something different than grant money," said Huizing, adding that investment is required to support entrepreneurs.
"In partnership with Welthungerhilfe and other partners, we hope to support entrepreneurship in Africa, starting in this region. And for us it’s also entrepreneurship because as organisations we often work in silos ourselves. With Welthungerhilfe we are doing something different, and I hope other organisations will join."
Wahnbaeck said that entrepreneurship was key to addressing longstanding challenges such as hunger and poverty.
"I’m encouraged to see so many budding entrepreneurs discuss something that is close to your hearts and which is making a difference in your countries and that Welthungerhilfe can combine with something close to our heart: a world without hunger and ending hunger wherever we work by 2030. We are actually one of the biggest German aid organisations. We operate in about 40 countries around the world with about 2,500 colleagues and we have one mission, which is ending hunger," said Wahnbaeck.
Wahnbaeck added that very often hunger is associated with poverty, and people do not eat because they do not have money to buy food. He said that sustainability of projects when funding dries up is difficult in the design of traditional NGO approaches.
"We jointly have to start thinking about how to combine social objectives with business objectives so that we can make sure that people earn a decent living out of solving social problems, which is what drives you and motivates you and drives you as entrepreneurs, and I can tell you it also drives us".
He said that aid has worked largely in terms of projects, and at the end of the projects there is hope that objectives will have been met, but there is increasing recognition that the approach does not work.
"We see that in many countries after the projects end there is still a lot of work to be done, but we lack the funds to continue. This is where business and entrepreneurs come in - to keep the projects running," said Wahnbaeck.
Popular Zimbabwean online comedian and master of ceremony, Rolland Lunga, gave an inspirational speech that critiqued the preponderance of maize in Southern African diets, calling on entrepreneurs to disrupt the food systems.
The 13 entrepreneurs had an opportunity to pitch their business ideas in front of a jury. Hivos Southern Africa Director, Tanja Lubbers, highlighted that the jury would look at the strength of the business case, potential for social impact and level of innovation.
Clive Nyapokoto's Shift Organic Technologies emerged as the Most Innovative Business for his agro-based start-up that built an integrated organic agricultural system that relies on organic waste management techniques.
Emma Harvey’s Zambezi Apples emerged as the Strong Business Case. From dried pineapple to pineapple juice and water, Zambezi Pineapples is pioneering value addition to pineapples in Zambia.
Nonhlanhla Ajaji’s Umgibe Farming emerged as the Business with High Social Impact. Umgibe Farming is a carbon-saving, ecological, organic, income-generating vegetable growing system which provides a platform to market vegetables grown by grassroots farmers from the underprivileged townships of South Africa.