Africa’s food sector offers significant business opportunities for entrepreneurs. The continent’s population of over 1.3 billion is rapidly urbanising, which is boosting demand for processed and packaged foods.
Here are nine entrepreneurs who’ve started branded food companies.
1. Nigeria: Baby steps to a booming infant food business
Feeding babies and toddlers isn’t child’s play, but Nigerian entrepreneur Seun Sangoleye discovered this only once she had her own. “I had no idea what to feed my son, besides formula [milk],” she says. It felt like nobody she knew could help.
That was eight years ago. Since then, Sangoleye has been building a children’s meal solution company, called Baby Grubz, which offers food products and information in the form of meal plans, recipes and advice.
Lagos-based Baby Grubz’ range of food items comprises fine dried fruit and vegetables that can be reconstituted and eaten as a porridge or used in mixtures for foods like pancakes and muffins. Read more.
2. Zambian company spots opportunity for locally-made spices and pastes
Sage Valley is a Zambian company which produces spices and pastes from locally sourced ingredients. “With the local spice market flooded by foreign products, we have taken the opportunity to fill this gap by producing international-standard locally-made products. It has given us the opportunity to support the agricultural sector by adding value and creating diversification for farmers to grow different herbs and spices apart from the normally grown crops,” says co-founder Zita Kafwimbi. Read more.
3. Ethiopian entrepreneur provides a snapshot of his peanut butter business
Wow Peanut Butter is an organic peanut butter brand based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “After graduating from Hawassa University, I was faced with a lack of work opportunities. I was unable to find a job in my field of study, so I started doing marketing for various companies at exhibitions and expos. While I was travelling across Ethiopia for these expos, I searched for business ideas and discovered a gap in the market for peanut butter,” says founder Henok Abera.
“I rented a place and bought a grinding machine that could process 30kg of peanuts per day. I had one employee and sold our product to small shops, mini-markets, supermarkets, wholesalers and cafés in Addis Ababa. Our output has since grown from 30kg to 600kg per day. We have increased our workforce and added new machinery.” Read more.
4. How Kenya’s Flora Mutahi built a tea company from the ground up
“In the ’90s, everyone thought you should choose a profession, like a doctor or a nurse. Business was for those people unable to get careers,” says Flora Mutahi, CEO of Melvin Marsh International. “Nowadays, I spend a lot of my time telling young people it is fine to do business as a first choice.”
Under the Melvins Teas label, her company produces flavoured and infused teas sold in Kenya as well as in some regional and global markets. Read more.
5. Ghanaian entrepreneur returned home from the US to commercialise the moringa tree
Kwami Williams is CEO of MoringaConnect, a Ghanaian company which manufactures food and personal care products from the moringa tree. “Through our True Moringa brand, we create health and beauty products powered by nutrient-rich moringa. We’re on a mission to make wellness accessible by bringing underutilised superfood ingredients to underserved people on the continent and beyond,” he explains. Read more.
6. Food processing company taps into health trend with millet snacks
Irene Etyang is the founder of Akimaa Africa, a Kenya-based company that produces snack foods from millet, a cereal crop. Akimaa’s flagship product is a gluten-free millet bar. “The growth opportunities are massive. Because of Covid-19, many people are becoming more health conscious. We are targeting about 10% of the health-conscious, middle-income earners in Kenya with our products,” says Etyang. Read more.
7. Ugandan real fruit ice lolly business has ambitious expansion plans
Krystal Ice is a Ugandan company that makes frozen snacks from real fruit. Says founder Linnet Akol: “Currently, we are still operating in the central region of Uganda but plan to cover all regions. The Icepops come in six different flavours: mango, apple, pineapple, watermelon, orange and mixed fruit. We source our raw materials from local farmers. We saw their frustration due to a lack of markets for their produce and we came up with a solution that could solve that and also reduce post-harvest losses.” Read more.
8. Rwandan company making bread and biscuits from sweet potatoes
CARL Group is a Rwandan company that processes sweet potatoes to produce bread and biscuits under the Vita brand. “Our production line is 90% automated. Once the sweet potatoes get to the factory, we do primary washing which removes the soil. We have a machine that can wash and peel the sweet potatoes at the same time. It removes just a little of the skin and then we boil it. We make mash or puree and mix this with other ingredients to make the bread and biscuits. We then package and distribute to different supermarkets,” explains CEO Umugiraneza Regis. Read more.
9. South African soft drink brand taps into global health trend
Three years after launching into its local market, the South African lower-calorie, lower-sugar soft drink, Pura Soda, is already available in 13 countries, including the US. The drinks have flavours such as Seville orange, cucumber and lime, and lemon and elderflower.
Founder and CEO Greig Jansen ascribes the company’s growth to hard work, planning and market research, but acknowledges that the startup has been fortunate to ride the global wave of increasing demand for healthier beverages. At 11.6g per 330ml can, Pura Soda contains less than half of the sugar that average soft drinks have. Read more.