2020 Winner: Sanku
Sanku scales technology and business solutions that put critical nutrients into the food that hundreds of millions of malnourished people eat the most. By fortifying grain, the organization’s mission is to end malnutrition by guaranteeing that every meal, for every mother and child, contains lifesaving nutrients. Sanku installs their innovative dosifier, which provides small-scale fortification by adding a precise amount of critical nutrients to flour, onto the small African flour mills that produce and sell the staple food families eat every day.
Primary Area of Impact: Healthcare, Economic Development
Geographic Area (Continent): Africa
Geographic Areas (Countries): Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania
Organizational Type: Non-Profit
Year Founded: 2013
Mission: End malnutrition by guaranteeing that every meal consumed by every mother and child contains lifesaving nutrients, forever
Micronutrient deficiencies affect 2 billion people globally. One in four children under the age of 5 are stunted, and at least half of children aged 6 months to 5 years suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiency. These deficiencies compromise the immune systems of over 40% of children in the developing world, lead to micronutrient malnutrition, and increase their chances of dying from curable diseases like measles, malaria, and diarrhea by about 35%. This results in millions of preventable deaths annually. Africa is hardest hit by the devastating effects of malnutrition, as 233 million people are malnourished. Maize flour is the most commonly consumed staple and comprises over 50% of East Africa’s dietary intake. While the caloric content of this flour is high, it lacks the key vitamins and nutrients needed for healthy growth, particularly among vulnerable populations. In Tanzania, the government adopted large-scale flour fortification to combat micronutrient deficiencies. However, up to 95% of the population source food from small-scale mills that are unable to fortify flour.
Sanku has taken on the challenge of tackling micronutrient malnutrition in East Africa, starting in Tanzania, by developing an IT-enabled nutrient fortification technology (dosifier) and a cost-neutralizing business model. The dosifier, which adds an exact formula of critical nutrients to flour in the small African flour mills, requires no additional steps for the miller and removes human error. With their dosifier technology, Sanku is able to automate monitoring and support for dosifiers and reach thousands of small mills with an efficient staffing model. The sustainable business model offsets the cost for millers so that fortified flour is sold at the same price for unfortified flour, allowing there to be no financial burden or behavioral change necessary for the consumers that purchase flour.
Studies on the benefits of micronutrient fortification have been conducted on every continent, across regions and demographics. Since Sanku started operating in Tanzania, 94% of the household were observed to be consuming fortified flour in comparison to 0% consumption prior to the organization’s operation. The fortified maize flour includes appropriate levels of iron, zinc, B12, folic acid, and other micronutrients. Additionally, since the introduction of the flour bag model in 2017 resulting in a cost-effective approach, there was a 31% increase in fortified flour consumption within one year. As of 2019, Sanku has reached 2 million Tanzanians through 300 dosifiers at the cost of less than $.50 per person annually. Furthermore, the Sanku Dosifier Technology has been installed across 5 countries throughout East and Southern Africa: Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Sanku provides a fortification solution that is scalable and sustainable, distinguishing it from interventions that have come before. Sanku is the only organization that has been able to develop a technology and a sustainable business model to enable the small millers that supply most of the food for their local villages or towns. The innovative fully automatic “one-size-fits-all” dosifier is a medium-sized machine that could be easily installed by millers. Built to be low-cost, lightweight, and compact, it is robust enough to handle the continuous process of milling while remaining accurate enough to dose a highly concentrated nutrient premix into the flour produced by milling machines. In partnership with Vodafone and product developer Linx, Sanku also designed a remote monitoring system through cellular modules in the dosifiers for scalability. To address the issue of unaffordable nutrient premix costs that neither the miller nor consumers could bear, Sanku uses a cost-neutralizing product bundling approach called their “flour bag” model that enable these small millers to sell fortified flour at the same price for unfortified flour.
The technology and business model at Sanku is scalable and adaptable in newer regions and newer communities. The need for fortified food to address the issue of micronutrient deficiency is global, with over two billion people affected, and Sanku is uniquely positioned to scale, replicate, and share their model. The technology model also has potential for high transferability to address related health and nutrition needs. The unique model requires minimal to no behavior change from both the millers (who have no additional cost to fortify), and also the consumers (who have no additional cost to purchase fortified flour). Sanku’s goal is to reach 100 million people with fewer than 250 employees by 2025. Additionally, the mandate on fortification in many of the countries in East Africa is a critical factor in the increase of support from local government officials, who have been key in the success of Sanku and its partnerships with local millers.
- Featured in New York Times, Financial Times, Gexsi Magazine, Borgen Magazine, etc.
- Selected as GiveWell Standout Charity since 2016
- Selected as The Life You Can Save’s Best Charities 2020
- Inaugural Elevate Prize 2020, Winner
- Selected as Vanguard Member of the Million Lives Club in 2020
- Awarded TIME Magazine’s 100 Best Inventions in 2019
- Fast Company’s The World’s Most Innovative Companies 2019, Honoree
- Zayed Sustainability Prize 2019, Winner
- IoT Evolution Product of the Year Award 2018, Winner
- Fierce Innovation Award 2018, Winner
- GiveWell Participation Grant 2016, Recipient
- CLASSY Award 2014, Finalist
- Ashoka’s Changemakers Award 2013, Winner