You Should Know One Of The Best Kept African Business Secrets !

You Should Know One Of The Best Kept African Business Secrets !

Yes, you should know one of the best kept African business secrets, because it is making already billions of Dollars elsewhere – and Africa is only slowly waking up to this new trend in the global market!

You see, dear Africa Business Jumpstarters, once in a while I get overly excited as an African Business Coach, either because I came across a business model that is so simple and yet has astonishing potential, or because I am finding out about a new trend or product that is making new headlines in an African market context.

Today, I am super-excited to share some insights about a product of the latter category. Or actually, a whole range of attractive products……that can all be derrived from a single plant, on top of it one that overall still grows mostly wild in almost 35 African countries.

They call it the 'green gold' in some Asian countries 🙂 Let's take notice!


Africa's best kept business secret is called 'green gold'

We are talking about bamboo! And if you want to know why it has HUGE potential – yes, you can make more than toothpicks from it – then keep on reading. Information is power as they say, but information that you use towards your own goals can turn your own fortunes around.

To name a few profitable products you can make from bamboo – both for sales within Africa or for export:

  • Poles for construction & scaffolding 
  • Housing & fencing
  • High quality flooring
  • Furniture
  • Bike frames
  • Acessoiries
  • Charcoal
  • Beer
  • Animal feed + human food
  • Clothing, yes, clothing that is said to be softer than cotton and is expensive like silk!
  • And many more!

Now this one is for pioneers….for go-getters Let's have a look at the article below:

Bamboo, a highly versatile giant grass that can grow in almost any kind of climate and thrive in the poorest of soils—has been in existence for hundreds of years in Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa. Yet for a long time the potential of this fastest-growing plant on earth, with recorded growth rates of up to one metre per day for some species, remained largely unexploited.

It was not until recently that widespread commercialization of bamboo began taking root, spurring hopes of generating income and creating jobs for the rural poor.

The world bamboo market is growing, led by China and an increasing demand for sustainable products in Europe and the United States. According to the International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), an intergovernmental organization registered with the United Nations that promotes the growing of bamboo and rattan for economic and environmental gains, the global bamboo economy is now valued at $60 billion, and is a potential income generator for rural communities.

To tap into this lucrative green economy, African governments and the private sector have begun positioning themselves to commercialize bamboo. The profit potential has become even greater as environmentalists link bamboo with climate change mitigation, and the possibility of increased income through carbon credits.

So far 18 African countries with natural bamboo—Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda—have joined INBAR, which is assisting them with bamboo information, technology transfer, capacity building and policy formulation. Other countries, like Angola, Gabon and Zambia, are expected to join the network.

According to INBAR’s director general, Hans Friederich, bamboo can be a strong pillar of Africa’s future green economy. He says it can help reduce poverty and protect the environment, and that it provides a practical and rapid solution for some of the natural resource and poverty challenges facing many African countries today.

“It is an amazing plant that provides a great opportunity for making an income because it grows incredibly fast and a farmer can sell it as a raw product or can make products out of it,” Mr. Friederich told Africa Renewal. “It also does not require any fertilizers or pesticides because it has no real threat from diseases or pests. Once it is planted, you can leave it.”

Bamboo is used to make a long list of high-value products. In fact, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the plant has over 2,000 different uses, China reckons there are nearly 10,000 uses and can fetch even more money if processed.

Commercially bamboo is used for furniture and a variety of building and roofing materials, from fencing poles to veneer, floor tiles, panels for walls and ceilings, scaffolding material, door and window frames and window blinders.

In the paper and pulp industry, bamboo can be made into newsprint, toilet paper and cardboard, which would help to conserve Africa’s finite resources, such as its forests. The textile, food and chemical industries convert bamboo into fabrics, T-shirts, wine, vinegar, biochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Domestically bamboo is used to make mats, baskets, canoes, fishing kits, bicycles, fences, toothpicks, school desks, pencils and rulers, to name just a few products.

Bamboo is also a source of bio-energy. A majority of sub-Saharan African households use firewood or charcoal made from timber for cooking, often leading to deforestation, land degradation and indoor pollution. As the population in Africa increases, the massive harvesting of firewood and charcoal will be unsustainable, according to INBAR. Bamboo provides a clean and renewable energy alternative in the form of charcoal briquettes and wood for domestic and industrial use.

On protecting the environment, some swear the bamboo plant is “magic” in mitigating the effects of climate change through rapid reforestation, slowing soil erosion and repairing damaged ecosystems. Bamboo also serves as an excellent large-scale carbon sink, each plant taking in almost double the carbon dioxide of a tree.

Commercial bamboo farmers may also benefit from acquiring carbon credits. INBAR, the China Green Carbon Foundation and Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University have developed a methodology that will enable project developers to quantify the carbon fluxes within a bamboo plantation, which can allow the calculation of carbon credits earned. This would mean more income for bamboo farmers.

Commercial bamboo farming has the potential to create thousands of jobs, since it is labour intensive. Bamboo plants are typically planted, maintained and harvested by hand. In Ghana, about 1,500 people were employed when a commercial project started recently. In China, the bamboo industry employs nearly 8 million people, a number that is expected to hit 10 million by 2020, according to INBAR.

 A bamboo plant matures in four to eight years, depending on the species; however, it can be harvested as a perennial crop, without deforestation, three to five years after initial planting. It can be sustainably harvested for well over 40 years. Once it starts growing, bamboo remains rooted in the soil, producing new shoots each year. This helps secure the soil and maintain slope stability.

“Unlike forests, where everyone says, ‘Don’t cut that tree,’ bamboo grows back fast when you cut it. The more you cut, the more it grows,” says Mr. Friederich. Africa, he says, boasts huge reserves of largely untapped indigenous bamboo, amounting to some 8% of the world’s bamboo resources, and excellent weather conditions for growing commercial species.



That bamboo is versatile and has lots of potential is not in doubt. So why have African countries overlooked the plant’s potential for so long?

“The biggest challenge is a lack of awareness,” Tesfaye Hunde, the head of the East Africa Regional Office of INBAR in Addis Ababa, told Africa Renewal, adding that lack of finances and the absence of a national policy and strategy programme to develop and use bamboo resources were also hampering progress.

As awareness grows, more countries are turning to bamboo. “The use of bamboo is dramatically increasing,” says Mr. Hunde, adding: “Up to 36 countries in Africa have natural bamboo-growing regions and INBAR is working with other organizations on bamboo technology transfer and training farmers in the region developing a bamboo value chain—from farmers to markets—requires national policies, technology transfer and investment”. 

African governments also face the challenges of equipping farmers with bamboo planting and maintenance skills, supplying seedlings and teaming up with the private sector for processing and value addition.

Moreover, despite promising market potential, those who wish to commercialize bamboo products still face hurdles such as a lack of research, product innovation and marketing skills. Another challenge is to accurately designate bamboo to meet international trade and forestry standards.

“Bamboo shows big potential but suffers from an image problem,” Gary Quince, the European Union’s ambassador to the African Union, was quoted as saying. “Many farmers see it as a pest because it grows fast when in fact this is its real benefit.”

The question is whether bamboo species are invasive, considering their characteristics, such as rapid growth. There is fear about bamboo’s ability to displace native vegetation, alter habitat and upset food chains. A statement by the American Bamboo Society says the plant has a low potential for invasiveness but recognizes that some running bamboo species can be aggressive spreaders if not well maintained. INBAR is providing its member states with information on the issue, such as what species are best for different soils and how to maintain, intercrop and harvest bamboo plants.

To fully benefit from the bamboo boom, the private sector needs to be at the heart of green economy development in order to drive demand and provide investment. Again, value addition needs to be more innovative if African bamboo is to take the global market by storm.

However, there are those on the continent calling for proper planning before going full blast on bamboo. Nigerian environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey sees a unique problem: “Bamboo, which is normally a free resource throughout rural Africa, could fall into private hands that would deny villagers access and use of this resource.” 

Ethiopian bamboo: The new green gold of Africa?

Money really could grow on trees for a new industry in Ethiopia.

Two-thirds of the bamboo in Africa is situated in the upwardly-mobile state, and it is hoped that "green gold" can power growth.

"The farmer who has bamboo is rich, but he doesn't know it," says Adane Berhe, CEO Adal Industrial PLC, which is helping to build the new industry.

Berhe has travelled to China, the global hub of the bamboo trade, to acquire modern manufacturing equipment. This has allowed his business to scale up from producing toothpicks to flooring and curtains.

China is also beginning to invest in Ethiopia. The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) has now established an office in Addis-Ababa.

"China has the technology, the capital, and the international market," says Fu Jinhe, East Africa Regional Coordinator for INBAR. "Ethiopia has the resource. If they are working together, it's perfect, and you can produce high quality products for international and domestic markets."

INBAR estimates that the global market for bamboo is worth $60 billion and rising, a lucrative prospect for Ethiopian businesses, and potentially a major boost for the wider economy.

The bamboo trade will also benefit from its greater sustainability than rival materials such as timber. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world, capable of growing almost one meter a day, so that stocks can be rapidly regenerated.

The plant is also extremely versatile. It can be used for everything from furniture to paper.

Companies such as Adal could be the early adopters of a major new industry.

[Sources. &]

So, dear Africa Business Jumpstarters, consider this amazing plant!…..and spread the word among Africans!

It goes hand in hand with our mantra here at Africa Business Jumpstart:

Build a grand and profitable business for yourself, while making an impact on Africa's development. Power combination 🙂




User Comments ( 25 )

  • Badaru Adegoroye

    Great write up.It sparked a lot of enthusiasm and I will like to follow through with more research.I'm Nigerian and would like to explore this opportunity.Thanks Harnet! 

  • Abiodun Adewuni

    Dear Hanet,

    Am so impressed with this knowledge sharing on Bamboo and will like to go into the business.

    However, I must let you know that I have 94 hectares of land situated in Ogbomosho, oyo state, south west of Nigeria with Government approval ( Certificate of occupancy)  But am looking for foreign business partner who will double as a technical and financial partners in the business. My equity contributions is the land.

    Kindly consider my request and guide me appropriately.

    Abiodun Adewuni

  • Ken Phiri

    This information is profound.

    I am looking forward to venture. I already started applying for 50 hectares of land.

    let’s make Africa great through business

  • Noel

    That is an amazing article. I am so impressed by the growth and potential in Africa. This is a business I would absolutely consider investing in. 

    Dr. Harnet, I would be open to discussing this further with you in our live session and with Adiodun Adewuni from the above post. 

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Noel, great to hear that and I woud love to discuss it further, but this is a new trend I am coming across and I need to do more pro-active research during my business missions and with stakeholders on the ground to be of help.

  • Howard akridge

    Please forward any investment information on the bamboo industry individuals or companies thank you 

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Howard, thanks for your interest. I have to say I am just researching ths new trend myself, but will try to get more info during my business mission trips to Africa and share it with our online community here when I have it

  • Bibi

    Wow this is amazing info!

    • admin

      Glad to hear that, Bibi!

  • Daniel Anthony

    Dear Dr.Hanet.

    Am very happy to follow your good presentation,thanks you so much.



    • admin

      You are very welcome, Daniel, and thanks for your kind feedback!

  • Erhaye Julius

    Hi Dr. Harnet,
    Am quite impressed with your Africa business analysis and presentation, especially about this bamboo revolution
    Pls, do your research and send us a post about the details. I will particularly send an email to you for further discussion.
    Thank you, for your good works.

    Best wishes,
    J.O. Erhaye

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Erhaye

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback, I am glad you find it useful!

  • Samuel

    Dear Dr.Hanet,

    Thank you for your insighs regarding opportunities on our continent. I have been a regular visitor to this sight since i stumbled on it in 2014. I am an IT specialist with a regular Job in Ghana. I was looking for ways to start a business and was directed to your page through google search engine. I will like to state that i got inspired and started farming. I currently have 10 arcs of cocoa plantation, 11.5 arcs of palm plantation ( will be adding 10arcs more this year) and 80 rabbits in a production house, 10arcs of plantain which i started harvesting. I have not started making sales yet apart from the plantian but i can see the long term growth in the project. I had challenges but i decided never to give up. I do not usually post comments on articles because i wanted to be in the background and work harder but i made this article an exception to inspire someone. All my insvestments come from my monthly salary. I promise to invite you oneday to my farm.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Samuel, thank you so much for sharing your story, this is truly appreciated! I am very sure your investments will pay off very soon as you are focused and ambitious. It can be done.

      I think one quick advice would be that – although diversification is very good and important as a risk strategy, it maybe good to focus on two agri products or so that work best. (and it is fine to do some testing in the beginning). Yu see, it takes a lot to grow the quantity, know your market and make the connections, get buyers etc. Many good buyers also require larger quantities or great quality. So consider focusing your energy and money on becoming excellent at maybe two (rather than 4 different products), it could help you to grow faster. Yes, please keep us updated and we are very keen to learn from your experiences – challenges & wins! Thanks so much again!

      • Samuel

        Dear Dr. Harnet,

        Thank you for the advice.

    • Gift Kachavhi

      Quite impressing Mr. Samuel. Would like to have a chart with you. I am from Zimbabwe.

    • John Murambiwa

      Samuel can I have quatation for your products via my email                    

  • Ickmar

    Dear Dr. Harnet,


    Thank you for the great article! very very awesome information and ideas!!!


    Can you please explain how we can apply a business model canvas for starting a business in Africa?

    (Maybe an idea for future videos or articles)


    Thanks in advance.





    • A.D. Hinton

      Hello Queen Dr. Harnet, 

      Excellent content!!

      I am aware of of European company willing to contract the grow of Moso Bamboo. Computation is $10k-25k USD Per hectre/acreage.


      • Dr. Harnet

        Hi A.D. Hinton

        Thanks so much for that! Do you mean that they will do the planting for you against this fee? Interesting. I must look closer into this company!

        Thanks again!

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Ickmar

      Thank you so much for your enthusiastic and kind feedback. Yes, your idea for a business model canvas is well noted – it can be a little tricky, as starting a business in Africa can be a very complex undertaking especially if you think of 54 markets! But I think I saw that you oined our Onlibe Africa Business BootCamp training, so you will have access to the training with me and I look forward to connecting with you!

      Best wishes, Dr. Harnet

  • Nathaniel

    Dear Dr.Hanet.

    Thank you so much. Information is vital and priceless. I'm looking forward to invest in this business in my home country (Zimbabwe).

    Your Blessed!

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Nathaniel

      Great to hear that, let us know how it goes!

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