Agribusiness and food opportunities in Africa – chilli, catfish, cassava and more. (Ideas for Projects)

1. Rwanda has competitive advantages in chilli production.
 The production of fresh and processed chilli in Rwanda has the potential to capture significant demand for these products in markets such as the European Union and China. This according to a study by Manufacturing Africa in collaboration with various Rwandan government agencies. European demand for chillies is roughly 1.5 million tonnes per annum, which translates to about $2.7 billion, while China requires about 78,500 tonnes at a value of $56 million. The main African countries currently supplying these markets are Morocco and Uganda. According to the study, Rwanda is well positioned to capture this demand. Read more: Export of chilli products from Rwanda to the EU and China holds strong potential

2. Southern and east Africa’s food industry requires local packaging solutions. In several southern and east African countries, there is a shortage of quality, locally-produced packaging material, which means companies often have to rely on imports or settle for subpar solutions. In Zambia, one of the main problems for food processors is the lack of packaging solutions. For companies targeting supermarkets, there is low availability of higher-grade packaging that meets the strict requirements of formal retailers. In Malawi, too, packaging suppliers are not meeting the demands and specific requirements from new and growing businesses in the country. According to Victoria Mwafulirwa, founder of Homes Industries – a processor of sunflower seeds, groundnuts and rice – this means companies are turning to imports to find what they need to get their products packaged and ready for the market. Read more: Unpacking the real need for quality packaging

3. Growing market for locally produced fish. Aqua-Spark’s new Aqua Insights report shows the continent will consume up to 29 million tonnes of fish annually by 2050, up from the current 10 million tonnes. On the menu is farmed tilapia, a freshwater fish, which according to Aqua-Spark, offers a scalable, sustainable and affordable means of feeding the region’s growing population. “Due to overexploitation, wild catch can’t be increased and thus won’t be able to meet the additional demand. We believe that aquaculture production will have to accelerate and have identified tilapia to be the fish to do so: it’s scalable and it’s healthy, sustainable and affordable.” 

4. Industrialisation of cassava in East Africa.
Agriculture-focused private equity firm Pearl Capital Partners sees growth potential in the cassava value chain in Uganda. The firm recently invested $2.5 million in cassava producer Pura Organic Agro Tech Ltd. The funding will be used to set up a vertically integrated cassava processing plant to produce high-quality cassava flour, tapioca starch (an industrial input used in the packaging industry) and sago (an edible starch delicacy popular in India). “Uganda, and East Africa as a whole, imports almost its entire starch requirement. There is a big market opportunity to replace these imports and bring in new knowledge and technology to produce cassava starch and sago,” notes Wanjohi Ndagu, partner at Pearl Capital Partners.

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.

6. Supply of frozen baked goods to Kenya’s hotels. The lack of a consistent supply of quality products has meant many hotels, restaurants and catering companies rely on expensive imported goods. It is estimated that last year, Kenya imported 2.5 billion in food products, many of which can be produced locally. Hotels in Kenya are increasingly outsourcing activities such as baking because large kitchens take up space that could be used more profitably for beds and conference facilities. Steven Carlyon, president of SimpliFine Foods, says Kenyan hotels import large volumes of frozen baked goods – such as bread and croissants – from Europe and the Middle East because there are very few local companies producing frozen baked items of consistent quality on a large scale.

7.Crop storage. The storage and preservation of agricultural produce in East Africa is an area with compelling opportunities. David Owino, founding partner at East African private equity firm Ascent Capital, is bullish about the opportunities in crop storage: “We’ve been looking at a business that builds silos; this is interesting to us because you can add value to farmers by enabling them to choose when to sell their crops. If farmers have a bumper harvest, they could store their cereals and sell them when the market is right. In Africa, farmers lose about 40% of their harvest due to inadequate storage space.”

8. Supplying food and other goods to Uganda’s oil industry. Uganda’s nascent oil and gas sector is expected to create downstream business opportunities for those who can provide products and services required by the hydrocarbons industry. One company poised to benefit from the anticipated influx of oil workers to Uganda’s Lake Albert region is Pure Grow Africa, which will supply them with fruit and vegetables. The region’s oil camps are predicted to host over 160,000 people once the production and development phase begins.

9. Packaged foods and snacks in Nigeria. Roughly 51% of Nigeria’s population is urban and with one of the highest urbanisation rates in the world, consumption patterns here are rapidly changing. “People now look for more convenience and seek out packaged foods, which is different from what they would eat in rural areas. There is a huge opportunity to invest in companies able to produce a packaged food product at the right price point, which is key because many consumers in the region are price sensitive,” says Mezuo Nwuneli, managing partner and co-founder of private equity firm Sahel Capital. “We invested in Polyfilm Packaging in 2019, which produces the packaging material that wraps food and consumer products, to capture value from the growth of companies within this sector. The company has exceeded its business plan in the two years since we invested.”

10. 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.”

11. 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. 



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