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In Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries, the average worker earns US$1,500. With most of that income applied to food, there is little left for medical care, education, or sundry other needs. However, the country’s history reveals a rich database for mining useful information. “By combining grassroots knowledge—or knowledge gained from our life experiences growing up in Africa—with knowledge of technological trends and market dynamics, we came up with a solution that we believe will make the world a better place,” says Salif Niang, who founded Malô Traders in 2008 with his brother Mohamed.

That neither brother studied agriculture nor food engineering before starting a food processing company may have been to their benefit. Says Salif, “The fact that we are ‘non-experts’ allowed us to experiment and develop a model that integrates other peoples innovations and insights in a way that addresses real needs and desires in countries like Mali using market-based approaches.” These innovations include crushing rice into a flour, fortifying it with vitamins and minerals, molding it back into rice-shaped kernels, and finally blending them with unadulterated rice. Because most Malians subsist mainly on meals of cereal and milk, this can drastically boost their nutritional intake.