As home to more than 1 billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa has a fast-growing young population. While the region is experiencing economic growth, it continues to face specific challenges in the areas of access to affordable nutrition, food insecurity, and the need for sustainable food systems.
Strengthening local students' scientific expertise helps to build key competencies in food innovation to address such challenges in a holistic and locally relevant way.
Recognizing the important role that education plays in developing future scientists, leaders, and innovators, Nestlé's global R&D organization is strengthening its scientific engagement with local universities and research institutes in Sub-Saharan Africa through its Academic Alliances Initiative.
Through the initiative, Nestlé provides support to local students, as well as key skills, tools, and knowledge, plus practical learning opportunities related to food innovation.
Most recently, the company established a series of scientific seminars in collaboration with partner universities in Sub-Saharan Africa. During these lectures, various Nestlé R&D experts share their scientific expertise with students, covering topics such as food technology, nutrition, food safety and quality, project management, or artificial intelligence. The seminars complement students' university studies with the goal of closing the gap between academic work and the application of science in real-life conditions while considering the complex innovation environment.
Céline Worth, research and development program manager for Affordable Nutrition at Nestlé, says, "Science and technology are pivotal to addressing local challenges such as the need for affordable nutrition and sustainable food systems. This requires local expertise and knowledge, which is why we're committed to supporting students in Sub-Saharan Africa and equipping them with the key skills they need, to develop homegrown solutions adapted to the local context."
Nestlé's academic network in the region includes a research institute and eight well-known universities, located in Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, while the company has contacts with further universities in the region.
Beyond the seminars, Nestlé has research collaborations with universities that enable the exchange of knowledge and expertise, with a particular focus on master's and Ph.D. projects related to affordable nutrition, food security, and sustainability.
Students and academic staff also have access to Nestlé's strong expertise in science and technology, through the company's regional research and development center in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, as well as its global research and development network.
Tesfalidet Haile, head of Nestlé's regional research and development center for Sub-Saharan Africa, says, "By actively sharing knowledge with local students and universities, through internships and courses, we can better identify locally relevant solutions that are sustainable and scalable."
Nestlé's engagement with universities in Sub-Saharan Africa contributes to the Nestlé needs YOUth initiative, which aims to help 10 million young people around the world access economic opportunities by 2030, through employment and employability, agripreneurship and entrepreneurship.