Nine business ideas to pursue in Africa: Poultry, cannabis, vocational training and more

There is an opportunity to provide locally-produced packaging materials for Ethiopia’s horticulture industry.

Here are nine business opportunities on our radar, as highlighted by top African entrepreneurs and investors.

1. Tapping into demand for poultry in Angola and Mozambique. “Poultry is a large market and in the context of Africa, chicken is at the top of the list,” says Henri de Villeneuve, founder of SAPA, an investment vehicle that supports the entry of European agribusiness groups into East and Southern African markets. To be successful in poultry, he notes, producers must be integrated and control the value chain, starting with the feed. The cost of the feed often accounts for about 70% of the price of the chicken. “Secondly, don’t produce chicken for local consumption close to the sea, because you could be impacted by imports from Brazil or elsewhere. Instead, produce chicken away from the coast as high inland transport costs create a barrier to entry for competitors,” De Villeneuve explains. “It also helps to be aware of abnormal situations or gaps for increased demand. In Angola, everyone wants chicken at Christmas. They will charter 747s to import chicken to meet local demand over this period; if you know this and are ready to act, it can be a great investment opportunity.” Agribusiness prospects in East and Southern Africa: Investor shares his insights

2. Vocational training in Côte d’Ivoire. “From an employer’s view, there is still a huge gap between traditional theoretical training and the needs of businesses,” explains Nouss Bih, who oversees the portfolio of investment firm Investisseurs & Partenaires in Côte d’Ivoire. “Our investments in the education space are geared towards businesses that focus their training on a clear market need. We have invested in technology-enabled solutions that can address this need on a large scale (for example, our investment in online professional training platform Etudesk) but we are also conscious that for a lot of vocational training, there is still a need for in-person learning. We have invested in a number of businesses with a physical presence, such as Institut de Management, de Gestion et d’Hôtellerie (IMGH) and the Centre des Métiers Michèle Yakice, which specialise in hospitality and tailoring training respectively.” Read our full interview with Nouss Bih.

3. Production of cannabis products in South Africa. From hemp products to the export of pharmaceutical ingredients, South Africa’s nascent cannabis industry presents several investment opportunities, according to SilverLeaf Investments joint CEO Pierre van der Hoven. The key areas of opportunity are the cultivation of cannabis, followed by the extraction of oil from the plant, testing laboratories, and the retail and branding of CBD products. There are also investment opportunities in the manufacture of pharmaceutical cannabis products (not a well-developed area in South Africa), but this requires a licence from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and is a lengthy and expensive process. Van der Hoven answers our questions about the potential in the cannabis sector. 

4. Co-living spaces for young professionals in Lagos and beyond. Co-living is a residential community living model that usually offers a private bedroom, with shared common areas. Typically, co-living referred to an arrangement where three or more non-related individuals would share a private home, but it has evolved to where large property developers are now creating apartment blocks featuring residential sharing with short-term or flexible leases. Some of the included perks could be stylishly furnished communal areas, top-of-the-range amenities, as well as services such as cleaning and security. Co-living spaces also make it easier to meet new people and make friends. “We think there is a massive untapped opportunity for co-living in general on the continent, but even more specifically in Lagos,” says Gregoire Schwebig, founder of AfricaWorks. Click to learn why Schwebig is bullish about co-living offerings in Nigeria. 

5. Export of niche fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) from West Africa to the United States. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market for a wide range of products. Michael Clements, head of the West Africa Trade & Investment Hub, a USAID-funded initiative, believes exporters should consider niche FMCG products, like dried mango, various fruit jams, sugar-free chocolate, and canned catfish. “West Africans living in the US love canned catfish and it is flying off the shelves; there are not many American companies producing this product,” he notes. Read about these and other West African products that are in high demand in the US. 

6. Production of essential oils in East Africa. Maxima Nsimenta, CEO of Livara – a Ugandan brand that manufactures natural and organic products for hair, skin and body – believes there is potential for essential oils processing in East Africa. “We import quite a lot of essential oils, yet it is possible to produce locally. We grow flowers in Uganda and Kenya but mainly for export to Amsterdam and Europe. We do not go the extra mile of using parts of these plants to extract essential oils. For example, lavender is a beautiful flower, very rich in oils; we could extract the lavender essential oil. A small bunch of lavender sell for around 15,000 shillings (about $4) in Uganda; however, 20ml of lavender oil will go for around $40. There are many local industries that require essential oils. They are used in pastries and drinks, as well as everyday cosmetics such as lotions, creams, hair products and perfumes. Some small-scale industries – like those that manufacture scented candles – also use essential oils.” Find out more about this opportunity.

7. Alternative protein from insects. Several entrepreneurs in Africa have introduced insects as an alternative form of protein. In Kenya, Ecodudu (interview with co-founder Adan Mohammed) manufactures organic fertiliser and animal feed from insect larvae, while Rwandan company Magofarm (read more) also produces animal feed proteins from the black soldier fly. Ghanaian outfit Legendary Foods (founder Shobhita Soor tells us more about her business) focuses on human consumption and markets edible insects as a direct substitute for meat and fish.

8. Packaging materials for Ethiopia’s horticulture industry. “In general, there is a tremendous opportunity for import substitution in Ethiopia, as an extensive list of goods are brought in from abroad. In our sector, a great example of this is packaging,” explains Jacie Jones, managing director of Perennial Foods Group, an agribusiness company operating in Ethiopia. “With a growing horticulture industry, there is a captive market of countless companies that currently import all of their packaging (boxes, liners, bags and punnets). With quality local suppliers, Ethiopian companies could avoid using precious foreign currency and could meaningfully reduce the carbon footprint of their packaging.” Additional information about this business idea.

9. Private care facilities for the elderly in Ghana. “Many parents in Ghana are alone in their old age,” says businesswoman Leticia Osafo-Addo. “And there are very few formal care facilities for the aged.” Osafo-Addo, who trained as an anaesthetist and critical care therapist in Germany before returning to Ghana, is the founder and MD of the food processing company Samba Foods, listed on the alternative board of Ghana’s stock exchange. “I think this is an opportunity. When I came back originally, I saw there were no formal care facilities or even plans on how to care for the elderly. Children and offspring who have left the country want – and would pay for – regulated care services for their parents,” she says. Click to read more about this profit-making idea.