In today’s post I want to make you aware about Africa business ideas in the area of food processing…..and here it comes: from food waste. Did you know that a very significant amount of agricultural produce in Africa goes to waste and that you could turn some of it into a profitable business?
Hard to believe that the continent of Africa, which is largely related to chronic food shortages, is wasting millions of tons of agricultural produce and food each year.
And here is the reason:
Farmers are missing the basics to get the food to dynamic markets in the towns and cities. They have no access to adequate storing facilities, don’t have adequate packaging material, no access to transport, poor processing methods, or lack effective buyer connections. Or sometimes packaging and transport are simply so expensive that they would be unable to sell at a profit (during bumper harvests for example, when the market price for their produce goes down).
Research by the FAO confirms: While the biggest amount of food waste in Europe and America occurs at consumer level – in Africa it occurs post harvest, so between the time of harvest and shipping or processing.
This is why we read about farmers in Kenya who dump their bananas, farmers in Nigeria who throw millions of tomatoes, or farmers in Zambia who made an urgent call to the government during last year’s harvest asking to provide them urgently with packaging material. They had harvested and were sitting on their produce. Literally! Can you imagine, they took night shifts to guard what they had piled up on the field unable to move it to markets.
Food groups that get wasted the most:
Looking at the different food groups including cereals, oilseeds & pulses, rubbers & tubes, fruits & vegetables, dairy, fish & seafood, the food groups that get wasted the most in Africa are:
#1 fruit and vegetables (over 50% of total production!)
#2 rubbers & tubers (over 40% of total production!)
#3 fish seafood (over 30 % of total production!)
Source: FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN)
It is truly tragic. For those farmers….and for Africa. But the good news is that this provides an amazing opportunity for aspiring African entrepreneurs to come in and fill a gap in a very meaningful way. There are certainly opportunities for you in providing storage, packaging, or logistics, but the most profitable is probably in the processing of food for local or international market segment with adequate spending power.
Remember: Fast moving consumer goods will be the largest industry in Africa according to Ernst & Young – and food is part of that industry.
You can buy the food that is going to waste in bulk and really cheap. And by buying and processing what otherwise would have been thrown away, you support the farmers and the national economy through local production – food processing to be precise – while making profits for yourself.
Here are 5 quick Africa business ideas how to turn food waste into profit:
1. Banana flakes to baby food
Both East and West Africa are major banana producers and during bumper harvests sadly much of it goes to waste (even if not ripe yet!). Why not buy bananas from farmers in bulk and produce baby food from it?! In the West apple and banana are among the first fruits we feed our babies – you buy them in form of ready-made puree, or mixed with rice or musli. There is huge potential for this to be replicated in Africa, where ready-made baby food is imported and expensive. You could sell a dry porridge mixture – banana porridge for example , or banana rice – this may be an easier production process than the moist ready food mixture sold in jars. Mums would simply need to add water. Professional mothers in Africa’s metropoles would certainly love the local low-cost, ready-made baby food.
Market: Sell in local supermarkets
2. Handmade fuel briquettes from rotting banana skin
Could you imagine making fuel from banana? Researchers from the University of Nottingham (UK) have attempted exactly that and their banana briquettes made headlines on the BBC and across various other media outlets in 2009. If you were collecting banana waste buying it cheaply from farmers and households in order to produce low-cost cooking fuel from it, you have a great social enterprise that is both impactful and profitable! Even better: Why not train farmers or disadvantage women cooperatives in the production of those briquettes and buy THAT off them and sell it in the cities! The founders of this idea invite people who are interested to use their concept in Africa to do so, as they believe it helps reduce poverty and save Africa’s forest resources. The briquettes could be sold to low-income families in urban areas. But keep in mind that your goal if to soon produce and sell in mass , as profit margins will be small.
Market: Low income families in slums and on the outskirts of big cities
3. Gluten-free, wheat-free, low GI flour made of bananas
Dried banana can also be ground into flour. It is gluten-free, wheat-free, and has a low GI. Entrepreneur Eric Muthomi from Kenya has been doing exactly that with his company, Stawi Fruits. Muthomi wanted to help small-scale banana farmers earn a better living, especially for unripened fruit, which is lower in sugar content. “We have a sugar cane industry, but I always wondered why we don’t have an industry for bananas. The prices farmers get for bananas is peanuts. It’s very unprofitable, but there were no alternative markets.” His business is growing steadily, and his story was featured on Forbes and various other media outlets as one of success. I am adding a short YouTube video on how to make banana flour – would that not be amazing to sell and also also fight food insecurity in rural areas! The power of the sun in Africa should be sufficient for the drying process.
Market: Western health food stores and local supermarkets
4. Star apple wine or juice
Just last month, Nigerian farmers of african star apples also known as ‘agbalumo‘ raised awareness about the healthy fruit that can be used for juice and apple wine making. Some farmers called on the food and beverage manufacturers to harness the potential in African white star apple as food and drink flavor to reduce wastage during peak season. One farmer said: “The fruit is being underutilised because fruit juice manufacturers have not recognised its potential to be used as ingredients. We often harvest them in large quantities during peak seasons but only a few are sold at retail level. “Most of the harvests are usually left to rot on the farms because of their perishable nature, which usually results in huge losses for us,” he said.
In another interview, another farmer said that processing the fruit into juice would improve its value chain and create employment opportunities.
He appealed to youths to take advantage of this ‘untapped’ business idea and initiate attempt to make apple juice from agbalumo. “Nigerian consumers will enjoy the juice variety, which the African white star apple juice can offer. “Researches have shown that the fruit contains more vitamin C than orange and guava. “It is also rich in calcium, iron potassium, phosphorous and magnesium,” he said.
Market: local and international markets – supermarkets. Also restaurants or hotels that want to proudly sell this little known local juice or wine.
Extra tip: Did you know there are mobile juice making busses that you can drive from place to place while making the juice right on the ground? I spoke to one of the companies during an expo, one mobile juice making factory sells from US$ around 100,000, but maybe there are cheaper versions out there.
5. Tomato to tomato paste
Let’s use Nigeria as an example, because the opportunity there will leave you almost speechless. Nigeria is Africa’s top tomato producer and ranks 13th in the world. About 50% of Nigeria’s tomatoes go to waste each year. Now listen to this: Nigeria is one of the top importers in Africa for tomato paste. There is so much space for tomato paste production there and Nigerians love tomatoes in their stews and sauces! The model may also work in other markets in Africa. Also think of producing, packaging, and branding liquidized tomato puree – Italian style.
Market: Wholesale locally
6. Dried fruit
Drying fruit is one of the best methods to preserve and process fruits in Africa. With fast growing health awareness in the West and a related billion Dollar food market, dried tropical fruits are increasingly popular and shelved in most major supermarket chains and health food stores. Having said that, you will also find a growing niche of buyers locally.
Market: Health food stores and supermarkets in the UK, Germany, and the US
I would love to hear your ideas and feedback regarding the food processing from food waste. Please leave us a comment below. And tick the little box under the comment section if you would like to get my Africa business posts and ideas right into your inbox!
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