In a trip to Africa last week, President Obama announced plans that in many parts of the grain-based foods industry probably sounded very familiar. Invoking the need for U.S. involvement in economic development for the continent’s 1 billion, Mr. Obama advocated a shift from an approach centered on foreign aid to one geared toward attracting private capital.

Because improved diets are a principal result of improved economic conditions in emerging nations, progress in Africa should be of great interest to food and agribusiness companies in the United States. But Africa hardly has been ignored here. Seaboard Corp. has been a leader in milling, grain handling and food processing in Africa for a generation, and the North American Millers’ Association advocacy for Africa has long outstripped the industry’s commercial interests. More recently, Bühler joined Cargill, General Mills and DSM in an impressive alliance seeking to help small food processors and millers in African developing countries through voluntary employee technical missions.

President Obama ended a speech to business leaders in Tanzania with the view that, “If people across this continent are just given a chance, they can achieve extraordinary progress.” It is an unwavering belief in the potential of these people that has sparked the passion of many in grain-based foods and promises leadership from the industry in helping this underachieving continent actualize its brighter future.