ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwean national Mandla Nkomo is set to become the first African CEO of the nonprofit Partners in Food Solutions.

This organization has been pivotal in bridging the gap between small and growing food companies across Africa and the expert volunteerism of corporate giants.

Nkomo’s tenure, beginning in July, promises a fresh perspective at the helm of an entity that has been instrumental in transforming Africa’s agri-food sector over the past 15 years.

Stepping into the shoes of co-founder and current CEO Jeff Dykstra, he carries with him a rich tapestry of experience garnered over two decades across various continents, including extensive work in South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, and beyond.

Partners in Food Solutions, established in 2008, serves as a conduit for channeling the technical expertise of corporate volunteers from industry giants such as General Mills, Cargill, and Smucker to African food processing companies.

Nkomo’s vision, honed through his tenure as the Chief Growth Officer for the CGIAR Excellence in Agronomy Initiative, aligns seamlessly with the organization’s mission to foster sustainable growth and innovation within Africa’s agri-food sector.

“I’m thrilled to embark on this journey with Partners in Food Solutions, especially at a juncture where food systems transformation is imperative for the African continent,” remarked Nkomo, highlighting the critical role of local food enterprises in ensuring food security and economic prosperity.

“Our mission to empower these enterprises resonates deeply with the overarching goal of fostering self-reliance and resilience across Africa.”

The significance of Nkomo’s appointment reverberates across the continent, echoing the sentiment that indigenous food companies, bolstered by technical assistance and strategic partnerships, are pivotal players in Africa’s agricultural renaissance.

Tackling the missing link in Africa’s agri-food system

As articulated by Nkomo, the symbiotic relationship between these enterprises and smallholder farmers constitutes the linchpin for sustainable growth and inclusive development.

At the heart of Partners in Food Solutions’ endeavors lies a commitment to bridging the gaps in Africa’s agri-food system.

The organization’s track record, accentuated by a slew of success stories, underscores its efficacy in navigating challenges related to food safety, product development, and operational efficiency.

The momentum driving Partners in Food Solutions forward is palpable, as evidenced by the surging demand for technical assistance among African food processing companies.

The organization’s latest annual report paints a compelling picture, with volunteers facilitating a 20 percent increase in revenue for client companies in 2023. Moreover, the tangible impact extends beyond financial metrics, with a notable uptick in workforce expansion and farmer supply chain enhancement.

Ken Powell, Chair of the Board and former CEO of General Mills, expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of Nkomo’s leadership, citing his positive demeanor and extensive experience in agribusiness and development as assets crucial to the organization’s trajectory.

As Nkomo articulates his vision for the future, it’s clear that under his stewardship, Partners in Food Solutions is looking to amplify its impact.

“Food systems transformation is now an imperative on the African continent,” Nkomo states.

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