5 Africa Business Ideas How To Turn Food Waste Into Profits

5 Africa Business Ideas How To Turn Food Waste Into Profits

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.

Africa Food waste 2

Africa Food waste 1

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 FruitsMuthomi 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

Embedded image permalink

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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Dr. Harnet
Dr. Harnet Bokrezion is the Founder of africajumpstart.com and co-author of the book '101 Ways to Make Money in Africa'. She coaches individuals and consults existing companies assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions in Africa’s new emerging markets faster and more confidently. Dr. Harnet also regularly writes for the renowned DHL powered publication howwemadeitinafrica.com. Get in touch to inquire how she can be of assistance to your own Africa business endeavors: harnet@africajumpstart.com

User Comments ( 20 )

  • Alex Egbo

    Thanks a lot dear Dr. Harnet for this awesome insightful article. As a Nigerian I felt challenged, the reason is that before now, it has been a thing of mild irritation and burden to me each time i watch how BANANA AND TOMATOES are being wasted here. but now I’m beginning to have a rethink . thank you once again for this great idea.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Thanks, Alex, for your feedback! If you are based in Nigeria and the food processing market is one of interest to you, it is certainly time to re-think 🙂
      Glad you found the article useful!

  • Mo Noureldin

    Thanks Dr. Harnet, as a Sudanese living in UK I always thinking of certain method to tackle food processing in Darfur my region you cant imagine how much mangos are wasted in the region and ending up Donkeys eating it. No proper storage or even a food processing factories in the Region (Darfur) I understand the instabilities and war created by the government. But pretty much that dry food processing is untapped market. Though I am a petroleum engineer I consider that something I would do. Because Europe will forever depend on Fruits from Africa.

    Thanks for this useful information keep it up sister.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Mo
      Thank you so much for your letter and insights. My heart goes out for the people of Darfur and all those who suffer as a result of war and injustice in Africa, I pray that better times are coming for them soon, so they can use their resources and potential. Yes, mango drying would enable them to make a small income, but also to help fight chronic food insecurities in their own communities, especially during the dry season.
      There are a lot of inspiring stories of Kenyan farmers who have started drying mangoes and have improved their livelihoods. Please google and read some of that material to be inspired and informed.
      May your vision stay alive! A warm welcome to Africa Business Jumpstart and all the best, Mo!

  • Timothy odetola

    Export of Bitter/Garcinia Kola for
    Orthodox and Herbal Medicine
    Bitter Kola is an Agricultural product,
    that We Export overseas from Nigeria to
    and companies who are into orthodox
    and herbal medicine production. This
    Agro product is used in brewing industry
    and has high medicinal value even when
    eaten raw. I source the product from
    where I live in the Western Part of the
    country Nigeria.
    Type: Bitter Kola Nuts
    Crude Protein ( N X 6.25) : 8.06%
    Nitrogen-Free Extract: 86.23%
    Minimum Order Quantity: 10 kg.
    We have two varieties of bitter kola that
    I supply.
    1. The brown coated bitter kola
    2. The dark coated bitter kola
    Both are rich sources of ingredients
    required in breweries, medicinal and
    food companies
    Mode of Supply of Product
    The minimum order that We supply is
    10kg to 500kg through courier service to
    any country in the world. Any quantity
    above 1000kg will be shipped to the
    closest port of the buyer specified in the
    contract export order.
    Before initial supply order, We often
    send samples quantity to test the quality
    of our product, and it’s conformity to
    the buyers’ specification. The time frame
    required to ship the product from
    Nigeria to anywhere in the world does
    not exceed 6-weeks, but often it’s less
    than that time depending the method of
    supply. The goods on transit can be
    tracked courier or ship
    Price and Payment
    We accept letter of Credit, and
    Telegraphic Transfer to our domiciliary
    account. FOB price per kg is $17-$19.
    Our business is open to negotiation but
    you can be assured of the best practices
    in the market/industry
    Our Local Rate is N20, 000 for 25kg ,
    excluding 5% VAT, and haulage to
    customer’s destination. Haulage to Lagos
    is N1,500 per 50kg bag Delivery Time on
    or before 5-business Days
    Our International Rate FOB price is
    $4,500 per Ton. Delivery Time is on or
    before 6-weeks
    Processing and Packaging
    In the international market, bitter kola is
    always required in two forms, fresh or
    dried. However, most importers (or
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    drying is done in a way that the colour
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    kola is done in three ways: sun drying,
    natural drying, mechanical drying (using
    drying machines). Natural drying method
    is what we use. It is allowed to dry
    naturally, so that the butterish colour
    our product will not be affected. The
    purpose of drying is to reduce the
    moisture content.
    Quality Control and Certification
    The product is free of foreign matters
    likes stones, sand, dirt, nylon, paper,
    etc. For the exportable product to
    achieve standard in terms of quality and
    packaging at the international market,
    the following parameters is also
    observed: commodities (the product) is
    properly dried to avoid moldness, free
    from extraneous matters, and not
    Payment Options
    You can do a local transfer or
    Telegraphic Transfer to either our Naira
    Account or Domiciliary Account. We also
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    Make Payment to Any Branch of Guarantee Trust
    Bank Nigeria.
    Naira A/c No: 0030042918
    Dollar A/c No:
    Swift address
    Contact Persons: ODETOLA TIMOTHY O.
    ODETOLA TIMOTHY O. : Business Development
    Manager 2348076628730
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 36285 AGODI IBADAN NIGERIA
    Office hours; 8am to 4pm Monday to
    Friday we observe Public Holidays in
    Nigeria. E mail: timothodetola1073@gmail.com

    Apart from the afore-mentioned, I also engage in exporting of local Nigeria foodstuffs and dried fish well packed and to sprcifications. Thank you.

  • Victor

    Hi Harnet. Good day to you.
    I am Victor From Nigeria.
    I was fortunate to stumble into one of your write ups (how to turn food wastes into profits) and I must say it was both an eye opener and reawaken call to me because I have been tryin to do such but was lookin into Yam powder production. I am really intrested in aquiring knowledge of Banana wheat. I am in am environment where banana is worthless and I see tons upon tons thrown away almost on daily basis. I would really be grateful if you could furnish me with trainin kits on how to make the wheat so as to create job and wealth both for myself and dos arround me. I wouldn’t mind if I am connected to eric muthomi as I think he may have the necesasry requisite skills and knowledge that I need. I tried sending an email to you but it failed to deliver. Thank you so much for your right up. Its again inspiring as I would look forward to gettin a reply from you.
    Best Regards
    Ekama Victor.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Victor

      Wonderful to see that you believe there is value in local banana wheat production in your area. Unfortunately it is also a new concept for me, but I suggest you contact Eric, maybe he is glad to do some knowledge sharing with you on the other side of Africa. Or see what you can find on Google and YouTube regarding production. I found this YouTube video, there may be others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUGRQmwdTU0
      In fact, let me add it to the article. In Africa the power of the sun should be sufficient for drying. I hope this helps!
      Welcome to Africa Business Jumpstart!

  • Leeroy fredericks

    Thanx for the article, it was very informative. Iam particularly interested in the banana briqquets. Iam in Zimbabwe and we are facing heavy power problems with load shedding. A cost effective alternative for cook fuel would be a great business venture to look into. Do you happen to have direct contact details on which i could get intouch with the creators of the idea?

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Leeroy

      I am glad you found it informative and that you would like to look further into it. I do not have any personal contact details. You will find some of their names in the article I linked to through ‘the founders of the idea’. Maybe you can contact them through the university or LinkedIN. Good luck!

  • Garikayi Shoniwa

    Halo Dr. Bokrwzion, I have just come across your article on business ideas start-ups in Africa and am most interested in what you have offer. I, like leeroy, also live in Zimbabwe and am also interested in the banana skin fuel briquettes idea but also in the tomato to tomato paste idea. I would like to make direct contact with to pursue how I can progress these ideas to business ventures.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Garikayi

      Great to see your motivation in taking some of the ideas up already. I think your next step needs to be to understand 2 things: 1) The market in Zambia for tomato paste and alternative fuel wood sources among the poor. Who is providing that already (competitors)? Where are the gaps or challenges? What is the demand / pain points of people and how could you meet that. Etc. 2) What does the production process entail. So, what would be needed at your end to set it all up, how long would it take, what packaging is available locally, what are the costs of production? And then you would make a projection of how big your market (the demand) for those products are and how much profit you would make (after expenses).

      Tomato paste: Find out more looking at supermarket shelves. Who is producing it? What are the costs of the product. Talk to supermarket owners or whole sale merchants to find out more. Visit your local Manufacturing Association and Agricultural Association (just drop by at their offices!) to get more insights about the subject. Then check YouTube or the Internet to learn more about the production of tomato paste. These are the first steps to take – you will begin to understand the market, the process, and how you can come in.

      Regarding the banana skin briquettes. Try to contact the founders (their names are in the link).

      However, as a first time entrepreneur I would look into both ventures for a few weeks and then decide to start with one and fully focus on that. I hope this helps – let us know how it goes!

      A warm welcome to Africa Business Jumpstart!

  • Soma ali

    Hello Dr. Harnet,
    Excellent post i must say, congratulations.
    Food waste is a very interesting sector to get into, I was wondering what are the best countries to pursue this type of venture, for example, say i wanted to produce orange juice or smoothies from waste oranges and mangoes, which country would is perfect for this, that has a low amount of competition and a lot of potential for growth. And Realistically how much in finance would i need to start off. I am currently in university and have to be realistic as i am a student and haven’t the resources.

    If i wanted to process the fruits into juices etc, would i need a factory, land and so on.

    and advice would be appreciated.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Soma ali
      Thanks for your questions and I apologise for a late reply. Well, you see if you want to produce orange juice for local markets it needs to be somewhere where people have enough spending power to buy juice like that in the supermarkets. Orange juice and mango juice production is typically found across Africa’s bigger cities and I am unable to let you know the concrete level of competition with other local (and foreign!) Juice brands. Having said that, you have a situation where a large market like Nigeria is importing $140 million Dollar worth of orange concentrate every year!
      Juice production is simple, but if you want to be able to sell the juice to supermarkets you will need a room (your little factory), machinery, tetrapacks, transportation etc – it does not come cheap.
      One way could be to cater to restaurants or cafeterias instead or to provide fresh orange juice in a tourist area selling ‘on the go’ – and start small this way. But I think it would be good if your juice had something that makes it stand out: thinks of a different blend that is not available – maybe experiment with it. I hope this helps!

  • Thank you Dr. Harnet,
    My company is at a stage where we are re-evaluating our business line and looking into processing some of the fruits mentioned above because of the value added income, increasing income and sustainability of the company. I have done a preliminary research on processing tomatoes, plaintain and other fruits as well and may need your expertise in the grey areas that i have.
    I am going on a field organised by a group of agribusiness network forum to food processing companies outside my country and hope to learn as much as i can contribute to the experience.
    I work and reside in Nigeria.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Dr. Mayowa, thank you very much for sharing insights into your venture and some of the current challenges you are facing. I would be very interested to hear about some of your findings after the trip. Please share them with us if you find a few minutes. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in writing and I will try my best to assist, alternatively I may also be able to consult you regarding your strategies and way forward as part of my services. You can reach me at harnet@africajumpstart.com
      All the best!

  • Faith Nganga

    Hi Dr Harriet
    I wish to start a drying fruits. I am in Kenya and would wish to dry and pack fruits. Is this a viable idea for Kenyans? Please advise

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Faith

      First of all, I apologise for a late reply and thank you for your question. Absolutely, it is a viable idea and some are doing it already in Kenya. Having said that, the niche market for those who buy and eat dried fruit is still very small, so I am not sure how great the profitability is. I think it has potential, but it needs to be started with a very clear strategy in mind and that could include:

      – Targeting organic and health food stores in Nairobi, which are slowly coming up. Marketing it knowingly as a solution for health benefits.
      – Processing it, cutting fruits and offering it to cereal breakfast production companies or snack production companies (this does make your life easier as you do not need to package your fruits, but you can sell in bulk)
      – Processing it and producing your own snack, mixed with nuts for example, producing tiny packages and marketing it to hotels and airlines.

      So with one or maximum two of them clearly in mind and really focusing just on those 1-2 commercial avenues could be your way forward. I hope this helps. Best wishes and welcome to our Africa Business Jumpstart community !

  • Our company, Pamat Foods also does banana flour processing in Nairobi and had its products available in supermarkets.
    We are also helping small scale farmers get the best prices for their produce from our ready market.
    We are doing 3000kg of raw banana to flour per week. Our face page is pamat foods.
    You can contact us on +254 722 365209 or +254 721 920407
    Thank you.

  • Opurum Nnamdi

    From the little i know about you am convinced that you are a very busy person. Your business ideas contributions and mentoring online will soon reduce regional and global unemployment rate to appreciable single digit if only everyone will take time to first search, listen and do something. This waste-to-money idea is positively mind-boggling. Hope to find my path soon following your lead.

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