The official launch of the SUN Business Network Malawi took place on 20th February 2019 at Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre, Malawi. The launch event was attended by 90 delegates, including representatives from government, UN agencies and academia.
The Republic of Malawi joined the SUN Movement in 2011 with a letter of commitment from the Permanent Secretary. Private sector companies have been active in the government’s efforts to fight malnutrition since 2015 through the National Fortification Alliance (NFA), National Industrial Policy and other key initiatives. The launch of the SBN Malawi represents a milestone event in bringing together and formalising private sector support to ongoing government commitments to improving nutrition outcomes by 2030.
The event was opened by Hon. Francis Kasaila, MP, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism who stated that “businesses possess the innovation and the creativity that the world needs to tackle the challenges we face including malnutrition”.
The government of Malawi has prioritised and mainstreamed nutrition in all ministries and departments and has already implemented various business linkage programmes to better integrate SMEs within the formal economy. The Minister recognised the challenges facing Malawi, where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line and MWK 430 billion (USD 600 billion) is lost each year due to health and education productivity losses. The need for a joint effort from government, civil society, the private sector and international agencies to address malnutrition in all its forms is outlined in the National Multisector Nutrition Policy, which notably includes how the SBN supports the government’s agenda.
Hon. Francis Kasaila highlighted that “businesses thrive when they operate in healthy communities. Successful businesses need to see a direct commercial linkage between their contribution to the health and well-being of the communities within which they operate and their business performance. Nutrition and business is a win win deal”.
However, the business environment in Malawi is, on the whole, unfavourable. Companies are cost conscious, so they only engage in activities providing the best return on investment. These constraints have been carefully built in to SBN Malawi’s strategy which recognises that, in order to attract businesses to join the network, the SBN must strive to add value towards achieving business objectives. In addition, the network should be structured in a way that provides a return on investment for the private sector.
During the launch, the Minister also took the opportunity to visit exhibition stalls of some of the successful local businesses who are members of SBN Malawi and champions of improved nutrition, including; Liveonce Juicers, Access Agriculture, Mgom’mera Seeds and Tapika Foods.
As a result of the launch event, SBN Malawi has identified key private sector entry points including; market supply, innovation, investment, fortification, workplace nutrition and demand generation.
The SBN Malawi will focus on 3 top priorities for 2019:
- Demand creation for nutritious food products
- Improving the nutrition regulatory environment
- Increasing scope for business opportunities in the nutrition space
- Build capacity within the SBN secretariat, the Malawi Confederations of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) and regional chapters to operationalise the strategy
- Increase coordination with government and other SUN country and global networks
- Source funding to support 2019 SBN operations to sustain the momentum generated by the launch
- Intensify membership recruitment
- Enhance collaboration with NFA and government, UN, donor and civil society networks