Zero Hunger Sprint: Enabling Nigeria’s Innovators to put their ideas into action to end hunger

Empowering existing social innovators with additional resources to accelerate their ideas to eliminate hunger in Nigeria is our best chance to reach Zero Hunger by 2030.

by Fabienne Moust, WFP Nigeria Head, Capacity Strengthening & Policy Coherence Unit.

The Zero Hunger Roundtable is a platform facilitated by WFP Nigeria and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria, where we bring everyone together — the private sector, development agencies, Government — to look at collective solutions that can contribute to zero hunger in the country. It was created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it goes way beyond that. There are lots of sustainable solutions needed for Nigeria. One of the big questions that the Roundtable asked included: ‘What can we do to support people who already have something in the works and just need that additional push?’ and ‘How can we link sustainable start-ups with investors and business mentors to help these projects become reality?’

That became the big thinking behind the Zero Hunger Sprint; a competition calling on Nigeria’s innovators to bring forward concrete ideas that help us find solutions to hunger. Nigeria’s landscape for entrepreneurship is very unique, which is what inspired this initiative.

It was logical to bring in the WFP Innovation Accelerator, based in Munich, as well as the Innovation Hub in Eastern Africa based in Nairobi, as these teams do great work globally. Once we did so, it all accelerated! Once we were able to showcase what WFP had done before, the private sector was immediately on board.

As entries came in, WFP vetted them to make sure they were all offering a solution to a clear need. We asked: ‘Do they offer opportunities for high impact?’ and ‘Is this solution scalable?’

And I just want to say, “Wow!” There were so many innovative ideas out there. So many solutions on offer to achieve Zero Hunger in Nigeria.

Now, we have our finalists, which is very exciting. But it is the private sector that will ultimately decide which of these innovating start-ups to invest in and mentor.

Once the investors have decided, they will together come up with a concrete plan, then we hope this could really begin to transform Nigeria’s longer-term food security and sustainability. One day, WFP might not even really be needed that much!

I truly hope the idea of the Zero Hunger Sprint will act as a catalyst and a model of sustainability for the future. Since the private sector decides that it wants to continue the collaboration, we hope others will then come in and say: “This is the type of start-up I want to work with. I want to understand your solution and let’s do something together.”

For the start-ups, it is not just about the financial support they will receive, it is also about learning from others. If anyone can really help people who are just starting their business and help them grow, then it is the ones who are already well established.

I am looking forward to seeing the start-ups come out with a solid commitment, not just an investment; the mentorship component is important.

“Having Bootcamp mentors, people who have already run and scaled-up businesses in Nigeria was really essential. They were the living embodiment of a practical guide. The feedback we’ve received is that this approach was really helpful. That’s because personal experiences are always the most powerful ones to learn from.” — Andrea Kobor, WFP Innovation Accelerator.

So now, Nigeria will have this core group of motivated, energetic, and inspiring people who want to put something good out there and crucially, who have the collective means and ideas to do so.

We’ve promoted the Zero Hunger Sprint through the Nigerian media because we really wanted all Nigerians to really feel part of this and to let people see what is possible and inspire them. We know there are so many people who also have similarly good ideas and are thinking about certain solutions, but are just not sure how to move ahead with it. We want to show them what is possible. We hope that this initiative sparks a light in people who are incredibly talented, have good ideas, but who just need that platform.

The idea of the sprint really tested the boundaries of just what is possible if you bring the right people together. That is the really inspiring part for me because I think it can go beyond Nigeria and be a catalyst and a model across the globe.

This is our first time doing this and it is definitely a learning process for us at WFP Nigeria. It is my hope that the Zero Hunger Sprint will not only be an example for Nigerians, but also for other countries. What can we do to achieve Zero Hunger together? How much can we achieve by connecting the right people who are excited, enjoy a challenge, and are motivated to tackle hunger in partnership together?

This is just the start. We can, and will, build on this success.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports, and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. While working with WFP’s regional innovation hubs, we empower entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies, and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, and hands-on support.

Find out more about us: innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch our videos on YouTube.

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.