Five business opportunities in Africa’s agribusiness and food sector

A selection of agribusiness and food related business ideas that have come across our desk.

1. Industrialisation of cassava one of Africa’s biggest opportunities

Cassava, a root crop which looks like a large sweet potato, is one of the most widely grown agricultural commodities in Africa. It is also one of the continent’s least industrialised crops. Cassava roots can be processed into a variety of products, including cassava flour, starch, ethanol and glucose syrup. Cassava flour is gluten-free, which opens up opportunities in the health and wellness market. Read full article.

2. A natural, sustainable alternative to petroleum jelly

The popularity of petroleum jelly as a skincare product has spanned many decades. The process to distil the jelly from a by-product of the crude oil refining process was patented in 1872 by Robert Chesebrough, a chemist in the US.

Zimbabwe-based entrepreneur Gus Le Breton, however, believes that an opportunity exists to grab market share away from the Vaselines of the world by providing a natural and sustainable alternative. “We can make a very similar product (to petroleum jelly) from mongongo nut oil, from marula nut oil, from baobab seed oil, etc. It is natural, locally made and you don’t have to use any imported ingredients. It is beautiful,” he says. Read full article.

3. Maintenance support for agricultural equipment in Nigeria

The maintenance and servicing of agricultural equipment (especially tractors) remain a concern for farmers in Nigeria. According to Mira Mehta, founder and CEO of Tomato Jos (a Nigerian agricultural operation farming tomatoes for processing into tomato paste), one of the biggest headaches for the company is the maintenance of its mechanised equipment. Tractors are sometimes out of commission for weeks due to a shortage of parts. “If you have a business that can provide an efficient service in fixing tractors or industrial agricultural implements, I think it could be a huge success,” says Mehta. Read full article.

4. Producing the supergrain fonio in Mali

According to Simballa Sylla, chief executive officer of Mali-based shea agro-processing company Mali Shi, the West African country has significant agribusiness potential, with ample water and even more arable land. One crop that Sylla believes holds promise, is fonio, one of the oldest cultivated cereals in Africa. It is gluten-free, rich in vitamins and amino acids and high in protein. Read full article.

5. Cold chain solutions in East Africa

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates over 40% of food in sub-Saharan Africa perishes before it reaches a consumer. This can be as high as 60% for fresh produce. There are a number of reasons why cold-storage is underdeveloped in many sub-Saharan African countries, including a lack of local manufacturers of cooling technology, inadequate financing options and poor electricity. Read full article.