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Food-wise, Africa is burdened with the negative stereotype of being a net importer in addition to experiencing challenges of famine and drought. But serial entrepreneur Ndidi Nwuneli sees the future differently, and entirely so.
“As a continent naturally endowed for agricultural excellence, Africa holds significant potential to not only feed itself but also attain food security and become a net exporter of food,” says Nwuneli, who has devoted the better part of her career, which started in management consulting, to driving this transformation forward.
In the past two decades, Nwuneli has co-founded two companies, Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition to shape policies and AACE Foods to mainstream African food products in local and international markets; founded the start-up Changing Narratives Africa to shift global perspectives on African food systems; and sits on more than 10 boards of global power, from that of the Rockefeller Foundation to the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum to the Heineken-owned Nigerian Breweries Plc.
“I am very disciplined about how I spend my time and juggle my various roles as a serial social entrepreneur, board member for local and international organizations, public speaker, author, wife, mother, sister, auntie and friend,” she says to no surprise.
But the starting point for a holistic, sustainable shift in the way Africa produces and consumes food begins not with seeds but with people, and specifically the continent’s youth, she says. “No external force can fully address Africa’s agriculture and food challenges. Africans must drive and own the transformation required in the sector, and entrepreneurs across the different value chains must be at the forefront of this transformation; they are the lifeblood.”
This is why, on top of everything else, she also created Nourishing Africa, a digital funding, training and knowledge hub that supports entrepreneurs in 37 African countries. Meanwhile, she also magically found time to pen many books largely focused on how personal values translate into systemic change, embedded with wisdom learned along the course of her own journey.
“If there is one lesson that I would like women, especially young women, to take from my life, it is rooted in an African proverb that states, ‘Do not follow the path. Go where there is no path and leave a trail.’”