From fries to tomato paste to rice: 7 CEOs who’ve spotted gaps in Africa’s food industry

Here is a selection of seven businesspeople who are capitalising on opportunities in Africa’s agribusiness and food industry.

1. Supplying fries to international fast-food chains: Kenyan company sees big potential

Humphrey Mburu, managing director of Sereni Fries

Humphrey Mburu, the founder of Kenya-based Sereni Fries, has tapped into the potato industry’s potential by manufacturing fries and flavoured crisps. The entrepreneur now sees a huge business opportunity for local firms that can meet the requirements of global fast-food chains. “It is an untapped market. Besides South Africa and Egypt, frozen chip factories in Africa are few and far between. There are a lot of new fast-food restaurants like KFC and Burger King setting up in Kenya. Many of them import from the Netherlands or Egypt. We think there is a gap in the market for locally produced frozen chips.” Read the full article.

2. Producing tomato paste in Nigeria: Tomato Jos’ seven-year journey

Tomato Jos founder Mira Mehta at the groundbreaking ceremony of the company’s tomato processing factory.

Nigerian agro-processing company Tomato Jos, led by entrepreneur Mira Mehta, in September officially launched its tomato paste factory in Kaduna State, almost seven years after it first started growing tomatoes in the country. The facility is said to be the third-largest of its kind in Nigeria and can produce one carton of tomato paste sachets every minute. The company aims to soon introduce its branded tomato paste sachets in the Nigerian market. Read the full article.

3. Rwanda: Entrepreneur finds market for dried cassava leaves product

Pierre Damien Mbatezimana with some of Shekina’s products.

Pierre Damien Mbatezimana’s company Shekina developed a packaged dried cassava leaves product, which drastically reduces the cooking time of this Central and West African delicacy. The Rwanda-based business already exports to several countries – including Uganda, Congo, Burundi, Kenya, the US, Canada, Belgium, Sweden and the UK – but Mbatezimana sees huge growth potential in West Africa where cassava leaves are consumed in large quantities and there are currently few companies that dry them. “This is a technology that can be replicated in many African countries, especially in West Africa,” he says. Read the full article.

4. Exporting coconuts from Côte d’Ivoire to Europe

Mohamed Diaby, co-founder of Zatwa

Trading company Zatwa, co-founded by Mohamed Diaby, sells coconuts grown in Côte d’Ivoire to clients abroad. It ships 20 containers each month to around 15 countries. Zatwa has grown its turnover from €100,000 in 2017 to €1.5 million in 2020. Its eyes are now set on processing raw material to get the most value rather than trading purely in unprocessed commodities. Read the full article.

5. Zambian entrepreneur’s agro-processing bet pays off

Dorothy Eriksson

Chankwakwa founder Dorothy Eriksson

Dorothy Eriksson and her husband Rolf, who is originally from Sweden, ran a successful commercial farm, Chankwakwa, in Kabwe, Zambia, from the 1970s through to the 1990s. But towards the end of the ‘90s, the economy faced severe challenges and the family struggled to keep the farm. One day, Eriksson visited the local fresh produce market. Many of the mangoes that vendors were trying to sell were about to go rotten as the supply far outstripped demand. She realised there was an opportunity to process the fruit into different value-added products. The dream for Chankwakwa’s agro-processing factory was born and today, the company exports dried mango to Europe and supplies jams, sauces, dried fruits, honey and soya products to various supermarket chains throughout Zambia, including Shoprite and Pick n Pay. Read the full article.

6. Selling chillies from Kenya to clients abroad

Margaret Komen, founder of Mace Foods

In 2002, at the age of 25, Margaret Komen landed her first export client for African bird’s eye chilli powder from Kenya. What makes this feat remarkable is, at the time, Komen did not have a registered company for the planned export. Nor did she know where she was going to secure the chillies required to produce the powder. She also had no start-up capital, no processing facility, and no experience as a business owner. Over time, the company has become a major player with clients in Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and South Korea. It currently exports five varieties of dried chilli in bulk to pharmaceutical and food industry clients in Europe and Southeast Asia. Read the full article.

7. A locally-grown rice brand in Ghana

Nana Owusu-Achau, founder of Agro Kings

Entrepreneur Nana Owusu-Achau is the founder of Agro Kings, a Ghana-based company that produces the Nana’s Rice brand. Rice sold in Ghana comprises both imported and locally produced grains. Imported rice is typically more expensive. According to Owusu-Achau, much of the domestic rice processing is done by smallholder farmers using basic machinery, thereby compromising quality as compared to imported rice brands. He says Nana’s Rice is priced at a premium to most locally produced rice but is generally cheaper than imported variants. Read the full article.