Grain Fortification Progress and Opportunities in Africa
In Senegal, fortifying wheat flour greatly increases the iron and folate content of baguettes. Photo by Carsten ten Brink on Flickr.
In Africa, 26 countries have mandates to fortify wheat flour. Nine of those countries also require fortification of maize flour. Six countries in this region fortify more than half of their industrially milled wheat flour even though it is not mandatory. These include Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Lesotho, Namibia, Sierra Leone, and Swaziland. Two countries – Lesotho and Namibia – fortify more than 50% of their industrially milled maize flour even though it is not mandatory. In addition, many countries also fortify cooking oil, sugar, and salt as part of their comprehensive nutrition strategy.
See the table below for a list of which countries have mandatory grain fortification, and click on the country name for more information such as the nutrients included in the country standard. See the Global Fortification Data Exchange (GFDx) for information on when the country’s legislation was passed and whether the country also fortifies cooking oil and salt.
Across North Africa, wheat is the most widely available cereal grain. Yet Morocco is the only North African country with an active fortification program. Egypt at one time fortified much of its wheat flour, and we are encouraging national leaders to restart the program. Wheat flour fortification in Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya would likely reach the entire population because industrially milled wheat flour is widely available.
In the rest of Africa, wheat is typically imported and milled in large facilities at or close to sea ports. This industry structure allows for cost-effective fortification. Commonly consumed wheat products include bread, pasta, chapati, and small cakes called mandazi that are often sold as snacks in roadside stalls.
Though maize flour is the primary cereal consumed in many African countries, less than 30% of the industrially milled maize on the continent is fortified. In 2016, representatives of government, grain milling, and development sectors from 14 countries in Africa met to deliberate the need to scale up maize flour fortification programs. Their work resulted in an Africa Maize Fortification Strategy for 2017-2026. The maize strategy is used as a reference to develop national fortification strategies for implementation by maize consuming countries.
Nineteen countries in Africa have more than 75 grams of rice per person per day available for human consumption. In 12 of these countries, fortification of rice imports and the limited supply for domestically produced, industrially milled rice represents an opportunity to improve nutrition for 146 million people. Currently Mali has a voluntary, market-based rice fortification program. See more information on the potential for rice fortification in Africa. Also see a supplement from Sight and Life and the World Food Programme on Scaling Up Rice Fortification in West Africa.
As Africa experiences a rising trend in economic growth and emerging common markets, regional bodies are harmonizing fortification standards. This facilitates trade across country borders. This has proven particularly effective in West Africa as multiple partners work together to "Fortify West Africa". See related stories in English and French.
In Eastern, Southern and Central Africa, the common East Africa fortification standards have been developed, and other new initiatives are underway at Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) region.
Smarter Futures is a public-private-civic partnership which provides fortification technical support and training for flour millers, government food control staff, and other stakeholders in Africa. Smarter Futures has been active in Africa since 2009. In 2018 Smarter Futures received renewed funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands to continue its work. The core Smarter Futures partners are FFI, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF). A steering team includes the core partners plus Bühler, Mühlenchemie, Nouryn, Nutritional International, and the World Food Programme.
Long-term engagement and collaboration among a broad-based coalition of public, private, and civic partners committed to multiple nutritional interventions is essential for Africa to improve public nutrition and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.