Knowledge for a sustainable world

Kefilwe Roba Moalosi is a Nutrition and Food Safety specialist at the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), a technical and development agency of the African Union. She completed the MSc Food Safety and Quality Management at NRI in 2009. Kefilwe took five minutes out of her day to talk to us about her career, life at NRI and inspiration for her work.

An early interest in food safety

‘I am passionate about food safety and nutrition,’ Kefilwe says. Indeed, everything she has done in her professional career has been steeped in Food Safety. After completing her undergraduate degree in Food Science and nutrition from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa, Kefilwe returned to her native Botswana. For five years between 2005 and 2011, she worked at the Ministry of Health - National Food Control Laboratory in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone. She was responsible for analysing food samples for safety and quality and formulating food standards. ‘I was also a nutrition and food safety educator providing basic food safety and hygiene training based on the World Health Organisation’s five keys to safer food.’ The keys are keeping clean, separating raw and cooked food, cooking thoroughly, keeping food at safe temperatures and using safe water and raw materials. These guidelines were developed to empower consumers worldwide with a simple and applicable set of actions to prevent outbreaks of foodborne diseases. Kefilwe was also the national codex focal point, coordinating all activities related to compliance with the Codex Alimentarius in Botswana from 2005-2008. The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations published by the Food and Agriculture Organization relating to food production, labelling and safety. Codex standards ensure that food is safe and can be traded. In 2008, Kefilwe got a scholarship from the Government of Botswana to study for a master’s in food safety and quality management at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI).

Life at NRI

‘I chose NRI because it is an internationally reputable institution and I liked the programme offering from the course outline,’ Kefilwe said. At NRI, she was impressed by the diverse student community many of whom, like herself, were from Africa. ‘The student community made me feel closer to home. I also enjoyed the world class facilities and conducive learning environment. The staff were always willing to help too,’ she noted. Coming from a food safety background, the master’s in food safety and quality management was the ‘cherry on the cake’ for Kefilwe. ‘I was able to enhance my knowledge, be empowered, build on my experience and boost my confidence. I learnt a lot that I implemented back home after my studies,’ she shared. The knowledge and experience gained from NRI also helped improve her leadership potential and made her a better candidate for job opportunities. ‘The master’s greatly improved my competitiveness for jobs,’ she stated. After her postgraduate studies, Kefilwe returned to her old job at the National Food Control Laboratory. But she was destined for greater things. Two years later, she resigned and joined AUDA-NEPAD in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Promoting food safety in Africa

Cover of the Food Safety Strategy for Africa 2022-2036

At the time when she joined, AUDA-NEPAD needed in-house capacity for food safety, making Kefilwe the perfect candidate based on her master’s degree and background. Over 12 years later, she is championing food safety across Africa. She has developed various programmes, guidelines and strategies on food safety and nutrition in Africa including guidelines to harmonise regional food standards. Mostly recently, she contributed to the development of the Food Safety Strategy for Africa which was launched in 2022. The strategy provides a harmonised framework for implementing activities to mitigate food safety threats that negatively impact consumers’ health. It will also help address issues like food safety related non-tariff barriers for improved agricultural trade and food security. She also leveraged the knowledge from the master’s programme to design a programme on food safety and quality management to tackle issues of food safety and quality. ‘Currently, AUDA-NEPAD is driving the implementation of an Africa-wide Home-Grown School Feeding programme, and this knowledge has been very useful,’ Kefilwe elaborated.

Advice to current and prospective students

Kefilwe drew on her own experience to offer some advice to current and prospective students. ‘Your chances of getting a job are very high when you study at NRI. It is a reputable institution, and the quality of education is one of the best in the world,’ she said. Kefilwe also highlighted the dearth of human resource capacity. ‘I would advise more people to get trained in food safety as there is still a huge gap in this space. Food safety is about saving lives. The food safety course at NRI is an excellent programme with so many opportunities especially in Africa,’ she advised.

Future plans

Following her passion, Kefilwe plans on doing a PhD in food safety and nutrition. In the short term, however, she intends to reconnect with NRI on projects that advance our shared objectives. She would like to conduct a special lecture at NRI on the drivers of food safety in Africa. ‘I hope that this lecture will help refine the food safety programme and make it even more relevant to Africa,’ she explained. Regarding her other plans she said, ‘I would like to collaborate with NRI to develop a food safety training manual to help smallholder farmers —who are key food producers in Africa — comply with international standards and boost intraregional trade.’