2022’s top African business growth stories from Ghana, Kenya and beyond

Yonas Alemu is the founder of Ethiopian health food company Lovegrass.

Yonas Alemu is the founder of Ethiopian health food company Lovegrass.

Jaco Maritz, editor-in-chief of How we made it in Africa, selects his six favourite Business Growth Stories articles from 2022. In this selection, you’ll find a range of stories from entrepreneurs across Africa, from a non-alcoholic gin and tonic producer in South Africa to a Kenyan affordable housing developer and a London banker who built an Ethiopian food company. You’ll also learn about the challenges and successes of an African-inspired plantain chips brand looking to break into the US market, the growth of an e-commerce company in Nigeria, and a unique Rwandan haulage-as-a-service business.

1. Non-alcoholic G&T: South African taps into booming demand for alcohol-free drinks

The Duchess is a non-alcoholic gin and tonic producer based in Cape Town, South Africa. The company was founded by Johannes le Roux, who previously launched, scaled and sold a local brandy and cola business called Brannas Draught. The Duchess is expected to benefit from strong projected growth in the global non-alcoholic market over the next five years. Approximately 50% of its total sales come from exports. In addition to being available in South Africa, The Duchess can now also be found in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, the UK, and Germany. Read the full article.

2. Ghana: African-inspired plantain chips brand eyeing the US market

Ghanaian company Sankofa Snacks was founded in 2017 by Jamie D. Saleeby, who saw a lack of African-inspired snack options in convenience stores in the US. The brand produces plantain chips in six flavours which are inspired by North and West African recipes. The chips are sold for around US$0.80 per bag in supermarkets in Ghana, with plans to expand to Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and the US. Sankofa Snacks sources its plantains from smallholder farmers across Ghana and has its own distribution network. Read the full article

3. How to profit from housing in Kenya: Businessman shares his experiences

Unity Homes is a Kenyan affordable housing developer founded by John Latham. The company’s first development, in Eldoret, took four years to build and sell, but was not very profitable. The next project for Unity Homes, located in Nairobi, was completed in two and a half years and was more successful than the first development. The company has since expanded to Nigeria, where it is building houses in the Lekki Free Zone in Lagos State. Unity Homes’ target market is professionals who buy the houses to put on the rental market and live off the rental income once they retire. Most transactions are in cash or through short-term payment plans due to Kenya’s underdeveloped mortgage industry. Latham believes the complexity of Unity Homes’ vertical integrated business, with many moving parts, serves as a strong moat for the company. Read the full article

4. How this London banker built an Ethiopian food company

Lovegrass Ethiopia is a health food company founded by Yonas Alemu, which makes a variety of products from teff, an ancient grain regarded as a superfood. Lovegrass’ range includes teff-based pasta, breakfast cereals and pancake mix. Yonas, who was born and grew up in a farming community in Ethiopia, worked in investment banks in London. In 2016, he quit his job at Credit Suisse to get Lovegrass off the ground. The company outsourced production to contract manufacturers in Europe initially, but now produces the majority of its products in Ethiopia, although its pasta is still processed in the UK. Lovegrass’ biggest market is the UK, followed by Ireland, Sweden, Germany and France. Read the full article

5. E-commerce in Nigeria: Founder of Drinks.ng shares lessons learnt

Lanre Akinlagun, the founder of online alcoholic beverage retailer Drinks.ng, started the business in Nigeria after experiencing difficulties buying drinks for a party in the country. The company was previously focused on retail sales, primarily single bottle orders as marketed by alcohol brands. However, retail sales are less profitable due to the high cost of consumer marketing. The company has therefore pivoted to wholesale sales, with larger average orders and a smoother delivery process. Read the full article

6. A unique business model to move everything from cows to coffins in Rwanda

OX Delivers is a Rwandan logistics company that operates a fleet of off-road electric vehicles, which customers can book space on to transport goods across rural areas. OX Delivers has designed a heavy duty truck made to operate in a rural environment with bad roads. However, it soon realised that selling these vehicles would be difficult as the market for new vehicles in many African countries is limited. So instead it started a transport service using these trucks. Read the full article