The UN Food Systems Best Small Business competition: SMEs and startups time to shine

Listening to the diverse voices of small businesses – from cafes to farmer cooperatives, digital start-ups, and veterinary surgeries – is a key component of the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit process to identify bold, new solutions for improving food systems.

Small businesses around the world that help provide healthy food that is good for the environment, good for their communities and create jobs for people locally are being invited to share ideas and suggestions for how their countries and economies can maximize their positive impact.

To help showcase the most inspirational small businesses from all regions of the globe in the coming months up to the Summit, which will be held in New York in September 2021, we are inviting any small agri-food business with an interesting story to tell to take part in the The UN Food Systems Summit competition ‘Best Small Business: Good Food for All’.

There are currently a number of competitions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – this is in itself not unique. But every single application will play its role as we listen to what you have to say as we uncover your story in how your business and employees are leading the charge for more sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems, and how you can be supported to scale up your trades sustainably.

We will be selecting not just 5 or 10 finalists but 50 winners from around the world. Why? So we can portray the rich diversity of agri-food businesses that contribute to a dynamic global food system. We want to hear your story, your journey as a business, the successes you are proud of and the challenges you have overcome. The last year, 2020, has been a particularly difficult year for many businesses in the agri-food sector as they have had to adapt and pivot their approach in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst a number of businesses have sadly succumbed during this challenging period of movement and transport restrictions, closures and changes in consumer demands, many have shown great resilience. A resilient global food system for 2030 is what the United Nations Food Systems Summit is striving for. Covid-19 will not be the only challenge to be overcome. We already have a pandemic of obesity in many regions of the world. And our changing climate will provide added pressures for all. So what do you do that is inspirational? How do you see the future of food and the role you play in providing a healthy, nutritious global population?

By being selected as one of the 50 winners, you will be receive worldwide media attention as we spotlight your business. The announcements of the competition finalists will be made at the Pre-Summit in late July, where SMEs will be playing a key role in what is being called the ‘People’s Summit’. Between July and September’s Summit, where governments will gather, we will continue to maintain the momentum of print and social media coverage of each of the 50 finalists.

Each winner will receive a US$2,000 cash prize and you will be awarded with a badge to show that you have been chosen as one of the top 50 UN 2021 Good Food for All Best Small Businesses, which can be used in marketing and promotional materials.

So if I don’t win – why should I apply? Well, step 1 of the competition is a short survey of just a few questions. These responses will be part of a report, which will be drafted and presented at the Pre-Summit in July. The final report will be shared at the Summit in September. We want to listen to the voice of SMEs so that they can be heard. What can we all do and what needs to be done to better support SMEs from across the world to transform food systems for a better tomorrow.

Will you apply? Let us choose you and let the world know why you are making a difference! Let us share your voice, your story and, together, let’s show what Good Food for All for 2030 is really all about.

Apply here!

www.un.org

Legatum Center launches inaugural Legatum Foundry Fellowship for entrepreneurs in Africa

Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship launches inaugural Legatum Foundry Fellowship for entrepreneurs in Africa. 

The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT has launched the Foundry Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind leadership program for accomplished entrepreneurs who are considering their role in shaping the future of the African innovation ecosystems in which they work and live.

At an inflection point in their entrepreneurial journeys, Fellows will learn from MIT faculty, connect with investors, and expand their network of peer innovators. The Fellowship is open to entrepreneurs working and living in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda. 

Building on the MIT ethos of Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand), the Foundry is a place where entrepreneurs come together to reflect on their achievements and shape their futures as leaders in business, investing, and governance. The program includes an interactive online curriculum followed by a three-week immersive session that brings the cohort together to explore innovation-driven ecosystems.  

The Foundry Fellowship presents a unique opportunity to bring MIT resources and knowledge to these critical innovation ecosystems and, importantly, also offers MIT an opportunity to learn from successful leaders and their innovative solutions. 

Professor Fiona Murray, Faculty Director, Legatum Center: “This is a moment for the Fellows to reflect on [their entrepreneurial] journey that also allows us to learn from them. They can use this experience as a stepping-off point as they move to the next stage of ecosystem-wide leadership.” 

David Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management:   “As a school dedicated to the development of principled, innovative leaders who improve the world, MIT Sloan looks forward to welcoming the Legatum Foundry Fellows to Cambridge and to the MIT community.”

Through this collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, the Foundry Fellowship will deepen the impact of leaders who are solving complex problems, creating jobs, and bringing essential services to millions through innovation-driven business models. 

With the world’s fastest growing youth population, Africa is home to 4 of the world’s top 5 fastest-growing economies, has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, and has a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending. Innovation and entrepreneurial solutions are a critical component to continued growth and prosperous people and societies across the continent.

Africa’s entrepreneurs are building businesses that offer lessons in inclusion, sustainability, and value creation that extend far beyond the continent. As a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders, the Legatum Center’s Foundry offers a platform for leaders to share their stories and consider new ways to extend their impact in their local ecosystems and around the world. 

Dina Sherif, Executive Director, Legatum Center: “To propel Africa forward and remain competitive globally, we need innovation-led entrepreneurship and robust African entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Foundry Fellowship supports African entrepreneurs to transition to entrepreneurial leaders who work with various stakeholders to strengthen and improve their ecosystems.” 

The Foundry Fellowship is a competitive program for outstanding entrepreneurial leaders working in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda. The Legatum Center will accept nominations from May 3 – May 20, 2021.

A nomination is not required to apply; entrepreneurs are invited to submit an application directly. All nominees and applicants must submit a completed application by 11:59 PM EDT on June 10, 2021 to be considered for the program. 

Nomination and application information is available at legatum.mit.edu/foundry-fellowship/. An initial cohort of 15 Fellows will be selected for this fully-funded program.  

www.legatum.mit.edu

UN launches hunt for startups and enterprises changing the face of food systems

The UN Food Systems Summit has announced a competition to identify the best small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the world who are transforming food systems for a better tomorrow.

The Summit has launched a unique contest, named “Best Small Business: Good Food for All”, which will surface and name 50 small and medium-sized businesses worldwide whose work best exemplifies the Summit’s aim of delivering all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing healthy, sustainable food and livelihoods for all.

The competition recognises those playing a key role in “building back better” from the pandemic while calling attention to the challenges they have been battling to overcome. The pandemic has disproportionately affected smaller businesses across the globe, especially those led by women. For example, the revenues of European SMEs alone saw reductions by as much as 70 per cent, according to one survey, while the World Bank estimates that businesses in developing countries were especially hard hit, with revenues down 70 per cent at the peak of the crisis, compared to only 45 per cent in OECD countries.

The Summit will celebrate those playing their part to transform through innovation the way small businesses produce, consume and dispose of food, offering lessons for building greater economic resilience and sustainability.

“All around the world, leaders need to pay attention to the ‘hidden’ contribution of the smaller businesses that are nourishing communities, creating jobs and regenerating nature,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

“These everyday businesses and their employees are the vanguard of efforts to strengthen our food systems and the small business competition aims to celebrate these efforts and to showcase their inspirational stories. In line with the Summit that is open to people everywhere and leaving no one behind, we encourage such enterprises to raise their voices and help us understand what support they need in order to flourish.”

The competition will provide an opportunity for the Summit to showcase the best small businesses at the Pre-Summit to be held in Rome in July 2021.

Listening to the diverse voices of small businesses – from veterinary surgeries to cafes, producer cooperatives and digital start-ups – is a key component of the Summit process to identify bold, new solutions for improving food systems.

The competition will uncover not only the small businesses leading the charge for more sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems but also ways in which they can be supported to scale up their trades sustainably.

Enterprises around the world that help provide healthy food to their communities and create jobs for local people are invited to apply and share ideas and suggestions for how their countries and economies can maximize their positive impact.

Each submission will help inform global leaders with the priorities and resources these businesses need to thrive, and all applicants will be invited to future Food Systems Summit events.

Further details about the competition and application process can be viewed here

Contact: Katie Taft katie.taft@un.org

About the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit

The UN Food Systems Summit was announced by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, on World Food Day last October as a part of the Decade of Action for delivery on the SDGs by 2030. The aim of the Summit is to deliver progress on all 17 of the SDGs through a food systems approach, leveraging the interconnectedness of food systems to global challenges such as hunger, climate change, poverty and inequality. More information about the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and a list of Advisory Committee and Scientific Group members can be found online.

www.un.org

Meet Stephan Eyeson, Founder & CEO of Survey54

British-Ghanaian entrepreneur, Stephan Eyeson, is current CEO and Founder of pan-African consumer intelligence gathering firm, Survey54.

Could you tell us about your company?

Survey54 was launched in 2019 and is a market research outfit that uses AI-powered insights to collect data and interpret consumer habits. What we do is help companies to understand African consumer tendencies and how this can affect their marketing plans and overall bottom line. We are operating right now mostly out of the UK and South Africa but our methods are fitted to global participation. As the company name implies, we are active in all 54 countries of Africa, but our highest areas of data insights are Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.

To which industries do you render your services?

The sectors that have so far benefited from our intelligence are FMCGs, Fintech, Healthcare and Food & Retail. Our clients tend to be international companies operating or making an entry into the African economy, but local organizations are very much in play as well.

How has the market responded to your services?

Positively, especially in South Africa. The current global health crisis we face has produced one silver lining – there’s an unprecedented surge in digitization in Africa. The need to have strong internet at home has gone from luxury to basic necessity. Home orders have shot up and digital interaction has generated more information on consumer behaviors than ever before. We have found this to be a positive trend and our feedback has reflected as much.

In what direction will the company be going Q2 2021?

We aim to expand our offering to purely consumer intelligence and will target expansion in Egypt, Mozambique and Rwanda. We are also working to partner with fintech companies to understand buying patterns and consumer habits within African consumers.

What makes your approach to consumer insights different from that of other existing firms?

We use various mobile and AI-backed technology to automate the consumer research problem. We also leverage different channels such as our mobile app, USSD, Voice and SMS to reach respondents in rural areas and those within cities. We are able to get respondents within minutes as we have a large database of participants across four major countries. We are purely focused on Africa which means we have templates that are tailored towards each country.

The AfCFTA took effect January this year. As your services span all 54 countries of Africa, how does this development impact your operations?

AfCFTA is very exciting for us. We plan to open up our research on consumers which will allow companies to make decisions on which countries they can buy and sell in based on demand. It’s safe to believe that this will be instrumental in companies making the right decisions.

What are the ambitions of Survey54 as a company?

Our goal long term is to be the largest holder of consumer insight on the continent. We’d also like to see a situation where we can make available our intelligence to SMEs as well as startups in Africa. At the moment we mostly work with large organizations that already recognize the need for consumer understanding, but the fact is that a lot of African startups fail because they go blindly into the market. This does not need to be the case.

What is the latest news from the company?

We are currently working on trackers that allow companies to understand and track real-time what Africans are consuming by the day as well as their eating habits. We are confident we’ll see this come into shape by year end.

If you are a company and in need of consumer intelligence data, feel free to directly contact
Stephan Eyeson

www.survey54.com