Young Entrepreneurs

Cashews are a major export crop for Tanzania and a significant source of income for many small farmers.
The East African country produces about 200,000 tons of cashews a year and is considered one of the best quality cashews in the world. But value addition in the form of processing of raw cashew and capacity building in this sector is wanting. The lack of local processors in Tanzania means there are very few jobs created from this valuable commodity; cashews are an important foreign exchange earner for the country.
Fahad Awadh, an ambitious 29-year old entrepreneur from Tanzania, recently moved back home from Canada to set up a cashew processing facility in Tanzania in an effort to bring international standards and traceability to the cashew nuts. He is the founder of YYTZ Agro-Processing, a cashew processing company that is adding value locally while creating jobs and boosting the income of farmers and the community as a whole. The company’s flagship processing facility in Zanzibar has an installed capacity of 2,500 Tons per annum.
YYTZ Agro-Processing recently raised a $500,000 investment from the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund to establish another processing facility in Mtwara, southeastern Tanzania.
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Gobonaone Modisane is the owner and managing director of Young Chefs Academy, an international franchise which teaches children cooking skills and baking techniques.

It is the first culinary academy in southern Africa that focuses primarily on child development.

This unique company has the mission to teach children the joy and value of cooking, and to provide an interactive learning experience that gives children the opportunity to develop a life- long love for the culinary arts.

Founded in 2009, Modisane’s academy provides parents with an affordable extracurricular option that teaches children the joy of cooking, as well as the value of a healthy lifestyle and self-reliance. They offer weekly classes, birthday parties, holiday camps and field trips to children aged 4 to 18 years.

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At age 24 Jean Bosco Nzeyimana is making a big mark on Rwanda’s business market. He is the founder of Habona Ltd and is making an impact in the lives of his home villagers, clean energy and climate-smart farming. At this young age he is making an ever growing impact on the community around him.

Nzeyimana was born in a poor village in the south of Rwanda, where no one had electricity. Like many children in his village, he had to wake up early every morning to collect firewood in the forest before walking five kilometers to school.

Nzeyimana always wanted to solve people’s problems. Entrepreneurship became a viable path to achieve that. “My greatest inspiration is that every little thing I do makes an impact in somebody else’s life. This makes me feel responsible for all the lives I am impacting, and those I can potentially impact,” he says.

Habona Ltd doesn’t stray that far from firewood. It offers affordable and environmentally friendly services and energy fuels in the form of biomass briquettes and biogas waste.

“Our briquettes are efficient substitutes to wood charcoals and help cut over 30% of household fuel spending every year. Throughout briquette production, the by-product is fresh nutrient organic matters that are composted to make organic fertilisers for farming.”

The company is also diversifying into the installation and operation of clean power plants, ranging from waste to energy, such as solar, biomass, hydro, and wind, as well as climate-smart farming.

“The most challenging issue I faced was outstripping the issue of age to earn trust. A lot of policies out there don’t favor young people. We are accused of having no experience and no money to run businesses of our dreams,” he says.


His work has paid off. Nzeyimana employs 25 people. To top it off, he shared a stage on a panel with former US President Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at the Global Innovation Summit last year.


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Founder of Omo Alata

The desire to work on a business that would showcase her creativity led 2015 SLA-Entrepreneur Showcase winner Kasope Ladipo-Ajai to starting her food processing company Omo Alata.

The Nigeria-based food service brand, launched in 2012, is focused on the production and sale of hygienically processed and packaged Nigerian soups, spices and peppers. It aims to promote healthy eating and to make cooking easier for busy people.
Travel, particularly to advanced countries, exposed Kasope to the possibilities of quick and convenient meal preparation. While on her trips, she went to various African stores and realized that many of the ingredients for cooking Nigerian meals were not produced or packaged in Nigeria. This is largely due to packaging issues in the country which rules out the exporting of some its food products.

Kasope: “We have all these products but why can’t we package it properly? If we package it properly then we can export it.” It was with this realization that the idea for a food service brand was birthed. Kasope decided to start by packaging pepper. “It is a produce that is basic to us in Nigeria.”

Once she had the concept for Omo Alata in mind, she solidified her decision to venture into entrepreneurship by registering the business. Kasope then carried out research on the product she was trying to launch. She looked into sourcing fresh produce, and best practices for cleaning, processing and packaging it.

She also solicited advice about brand development from knowledgeable people in her network. A lot of work was put into the graphic and package design aspect of it. Kasope knew that she had to come up with something that would both look right and catch people’s attention. The package itself, too, had to be functional.
Kasope and her partner leveraged their personal income to get the business off the ground. “We had limited funds to play with. We asked ourselves, ‘What do we need to do?’ and ‘What’s the best way to do it?’” There were essentials for their company that they couldn’t avoid spending money on.

These included securing a factory space as well as the necessary equipment for production. They had to get creative when it came to spending money on professional services that they really needed.

“We leverage on our family and friends expertise for such,” Kasope said. “We told them our vision and asked them to work with us, and we pay them in kind or later.”
Kasope has had to tackle several challenges that come with running a business in the food industry. For starters the raw materials that are used for making Omo Alata products are seasonal. “The produce gets expensive when it is out of season,” she said. “The suppliers will try to exploit you.”

“You have to be on your toes checking to make sure suppliers are not taking advantage of the fact that you have a relationship with them,” she added. Farm produce does not have a fixed price. Kasope constantly checks the market to make sure that she is being charged the correct seasonal price.

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Mike Njau, a college-educated food nutritionist left his banking job to farm strawberries in small-scale. It is nearly one and a half years now since he started the faming venture with an initial capital of Sh5,000 and 200 strawberries seedlings.

Today, the value of his farming venture has grown to Sh480,000 according to Limurudistrict hrticulture officer Mary Kinuthia. By March 2014, Njau expects to be growing 5,000 stems of strawberry from the current 1,400. He is optimistic that by this time, his income from the farm will be double the salary he earned from his last employment at the local bank.

“My plan is to earn double the salary of Sh 20,000 I last earned when I was employed. I will then start expanding the business,” said the 25-year-old young farmer from Sigona Ward, Kiambu County.

More young people are now realising the value of farming especially for produce that have ready market or can be value added to fetch higher income. It is a generational change of farming in a country where the average age of a small scale farmer is above 55 years according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“My choice of growing strawberries was deliberate because they have a high demand, they are nutritious, preferred by people who like healthy living and they fetch higher prices. We are not able to meet demand for strawberries especially for bigger outlets,” said Njau. He says recently a local retail store requested if he could deliver one tone of strawberries every week.

He will need to expand his venture to meet such an order because he does not expect to get back to white collar employment. Njau and several other smallscale farmers are currently selling their strawberries directly to customers as they cannot meet the high demand of supply from the consumer stores.

They depend on a marketing network developed by Farm Concern International (FCI), the organisation working to improve the commercial value of smallscale farming across the eastern Africa region supported by Rockefeller Foundation.

He is part of youth farmers’ network known as Youth in Agricultural Trade and Enterprises (YATE), which is supported by the FCI’s smallscale farming commercialisation initiative. They are ten members known a Generation Achievers in the bracket 18 to 25.

Each member is involved in a commercial model smallscale farming ranging from strawberry farming, rearing poultry, summer flowers growing and rabbits and livestock keeping.

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MPHO Nemukula realised from a very young age that she wanted to be a farmer. Entering the male-dominated agricultural industry was no easy feat, but her love of and passion for farming has contributed to her success as a poultry farm manager.

Nemukula (34), who works as an area manager for Sovereign Foods in Uitenhage, said that despite the many challenges facing the youth of today, from being victims of crime, unemployment, substance abuse and peer pressure, they should find something that they love and go after their dreams.

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Despite a number of African countries being significant coffee-producers – such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – the vast majority of production is exported to developed nations, with very little consumed on the African continent.

However, a coffee-drinking culture is now emerging in some countries – expats, well-travelled professionals, returning diapora and young creatives are looking for the same coffee culture they have experienced in developed markets. And Nigerian brothers Ngozi and Chijioke Dozie recognised this a few years ago.

They are the founders of Café Neo, a coffee shop chain enjoying a first-mover advantage in Lagos. The brand – similar to those found in Cape Town’s Woodstock or Silicon Valley – is targeting creatives and entrepreneurs with its free wifi, workspaces, meeting environment, jazz music and – of course – world-class African coffee.

Since its launch in 2012, Café Neo has grown to include seven standalone stores and six office locations in Lagos, as well as a franchise operation in Rwanda. The brothers are now looking at expanding to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Fired to self hired

Both brothers abandoned corporate careers in the West to pursue opportunities back home. Ngozi, who worked at major financial services firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. as an investment banker, admits to being let go in 2008 for poor performance – after two years of working for the company. “I was just not fit for investment banking,” he notes.

However, he knew he wanted to return home to start his own venture and Chijioke, who had just completed an MBA at Harvard, felt the same. After researching the market, the duo decided to set up a fund to invest in distressed African companies.

“At that time there was a lot of money running into private equity in Africa, but the opportunity that was being ignored was good companies with bad balance sheets,” explains Ngozi.

“In the West… these companies can just negotiate a bankruptcy package with equity shareholders. But in Nigeria and, for the most part, everywhere else in Africa, there was no bankruptcy or insolvency structure. So you would have good companies that once they had gotten into a bit of trouble, inevitably fall down and die.”

The Dozie brothers managed to raise around US$8m for their fund and it wasn’t long before they found their first distressed company to invest in – a coffee roasting company in Rwanda.

“The rationale was that Rwandan coffee was fantastic quality, and many international buyers were very clear on that,” explains Ngozi.

After turning the company around, they then started looking into exporting to new markets, including their home country Nigeria. However, the brothers soon discovered there were not many places to sell to, and saw potential in starting their own coffee-shop chain.

The first Café Neo launched in 2012 in a small mall in Victoria Island. The location wasn’t very attractive (as the outlet was hidden on the second floor of the building) but the brothers kept it going, despite maybe only getting in around 10 customers a day in the beginning.

About nine months later they managed to secure a counter in an office block tenanted by international companies. According to Ngozi, there were some dedicated customers, but the brand still hadn’t managed to take off.

Then, in 2014, the founders decided to take a risk and open an outlet in a prime, yet expensive, standalone location. And three months after its launch, it began to gain a reputation.

“It was a great success… It wasn’t making money [at first] because the rent was prohibitive, but I think it gave us a lot of encouragement that this could work,” says Ngozi. “And then, in just over 24 months, we got another great location in Victoria Island, which did a lot to create the brand.”

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Hi… my name is Nma. I am quirky, and what you would call a nerd. As a growing girl, I disliked ‘going into the kitchen’ because I was so ‘lazy’. In fact, my laziness when it came to cooking could be said to have superseded epic proportions! At a point all I could cook was ‘jollof supergetti’ for my brothers.

While my father was alive (may GOD rest his soul), he used to have me make him fresh, oil-less okra soup and boy did I hate it! As the years went by, I started falling in love with art. And the necessity to cook for others, and myself, pushed me to look for ways to rustle up simple but delicious meals. From then, I became more interested in cooking and started developing recipes. I now see cooking as an art, and I consider it my own contribution to the arts in general. Cooking has inspired my project – “Dine Africa”, which is set to show Africa’s culinary culture and exotic cuisines alongside its wide variety of ethnic nationalities, cultures and enormous land mass.

Please join me as I celebrate the arts through African (Nigerian) cooking; and through my mother’s recipes (some of which I tweaked to fit my choices). I shall also share some easy kitchen tips for the ‘lazy’ cooks like me.

Join me as we celebrate food, love and life. Dine Africa with me.

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He believes he has the biggest black-owned chicken farm in Africa, and presently has 430 000 birds in eight poultry houses on his 54 ha property.

This is Peter Tshikhudo (36), owner of Shumani Broilers near Koster in North-West Province. Peter’s highly successful operation supplies 3.6 million birds per year to one of South Africa’s largest chicken producers, which in turn processes and distributes them to a leading national fast-food chain. The farm has an annual turnover of just over R8 million.

Peter ascribes some of his success to the BSSA Core Programme training he received back in 2003, which he says was “invaluable” in establishing himself as an entrepreneur.

“I grew up in Venda, where my father was a successful crop farmer, so I always knew I wanted to farm,” he says.

BSSA recently visited Peter on his farm as part of the training aftercare the organisation remains committed to.

After completing a BA degree in Communications and part of an Honours degree in Labour Relations at the then Rand Afrikaans University, Peter worked in the Communications Department of the South African Bureau of Standards for a while.

“I then saw a newspaper advertisement for the BSSA courses, and the training equipped me with an understanding of practical marketing, financial management, and practical pricing and costing. When I wanted to buy the farm with its existing poultry operation as a going concern, BSSA helped me put together the business plan that got me started.”

The enterprising young farmer initially embarked on his new venture on his own, but has subsequently taken in two partners. He started with 20 employees, but this number has now grown to 40 permanent staff members. He also provides job opportunities for a further 200 outsourced workers who assist him at various stages of the chicken raising cycle.

Peter obtains day-old chicks from the chicken producer and raises them for 35 days, whereafter they are returned to the producer. He has eight 35-day cycles per year.

He is now planning to add a further two poultry houses, which will allow him to increase the number of birds by 90 000 per cycle, and will provide an additional seven permanent employment positions.

Following in his father’s footsteps, he has also branched into crop farming and has some of his land under spinach, with a further 5 ha in the pipeline. He sells his spinach to local supermarkets as well as outlets in Pretoria.

His advice to new or prospective business owners: “It is crucial to learn how to run a business before starting out, especially the financial aspects, whether you have money or not. I would not have been nearly as successful had it not been for the BSSA training I received.”


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How many young women farmers do you know? None? Say hi to Ruramiso Mashumba. Ruramiso runs a horticulture farm in Marondera, Zimbabwe where she grows crops for export to the European Union and other African countries. Her passion for farming started as a child and though Ruramiso has worked abroad she returned to Zimbabwe to work on her farm.


What’s it like to be a young woman and a farmer?


Traditionally farmers have been known to look a certain way, mainly male and above 60 years. So, being known as a young woman farmer is exciting because it changes the status quo and lets people know that, ” Yes you can do it in spite of your current situation”.

My father bought a farm when I was in form 2. He used to keep cattle. I went to Watershed college, a school which was next to our farm. Learning at Watershed school exposed me to the possibilities of agriculture. At my school agriculture was quite attractive because you would see the farmers children driving tractors and all so there was some prestige to it. Still, it wasn’t easy. I remember I used to cry a lot because of the struggle, especially the bullying from the boys but I was determined. After school, I got an amazing opportunity to work at a British company for two years then returned back to Zimbabwe to farm.

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