Did you know that a very significant amount of agricultural produce and food in Africa go 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.
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.
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.
And here is the reason:
In Africa, farmers lack the basics to get the food to dynamic markets in the towns and cities. They have no access to adequate storage facilities They have inadequate packaging material, no access to transport, poor processing methods, and lack effective buyer connections.
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 that: 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 farmers in Kenya dump their bananas, farmers in Nigeria throw away 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.
Here are 5 quick ideas on 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 western countries, 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 muesli. 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 metro-poles 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 disadvantaged women cooperatives in the production of those briquettes and buy THAT off them and sell it in the cities! 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.
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
Some farmers called on the food and beverage manufacturers to harness the potential in African white star apple as food and drink flavor. This is to reduce wastage during peak season.
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 a fast growing health awareness in the Western nations and a related billion Dollar food market, dried tropical fruits are increasingly popular.
They are shelved in most major supermarket chains and health food stores. You will also find a growing niche of buyers locally.
I would love to hear your ideas and feedback regarding the food processing from food waste. Please leave us a comment below.