From Nigeria to Zimbabwe: 8 agribusiness opportunities in Africa

From Nigeria to Zimbabwe: 8 agribusiness opportunities in Africa

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A woman carrying baobab fruits. (Supplied to How we made it in Africa by B’Ayoba)

We highlight eight promising opportunities in Africa’s agribusiness sector, from tapping into Zimbabwe’s substantial baobab tree resources to meet the growing global demand for baobab powder, to exporting made-in-Nigeria food products to the lucrative American market.

1. Zimbabwe could benefit from growing interest in baobab powder

There is increasing global demand for baobab powder, presenting an opportunity for a country like Zimbabwe which has plenty of baobab trees. Extracted from the fruit of the baobab tree, the powder contains nearly four times the vitamin C of oranges and is a source of essential minerals like potassium and magnesium. Zimbabwe boasts an estimated five million baobab trees, approximately 3.75 million of which are situated on communal lands, offering significant commercial prospects.

2. A gap for made-in-Nigeria products in America

Several Nigerian food and agriculture companies are tapping into the massive American market. Affiong Williams, CEO of ReelFruit – a producer of dried fruit snacks – views the substantial Nigerian diaspora in America as an opportunity for businesses like hers to gain a foothold in the US market. “There is no better market, or no lower hanging fruit, than your people in another country,” she says. “I see a growing opportunity for products such as mine and other food products that are becoming more global in their standards, to sell to the Nigerian market in the US.”

3. DRC offers large market for food products

A notable opportunity exists to supply essential food products, such as soya bean oil and maize meal, to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from neighbouring Zambia, Burundi and Rwanda. The DRC, a country of about 100 million people, has limited commercial agriculture.

4. Botswana has an edge in livestock farming and processed meats

Despite its modest population of 2.7 million and being frequently overlooked by investors, Botswana is on the radar of Brian Malambo, the Zambian-born CEO of private equity firm Monter Capital. He asserts that Botswana has favourable conditions for livestock farming. Moreover, the country could serve as a base for producing processed meat products with an eye towards export to neighbouring countries. According to Malambo, the government is doing the right things in terms of policies and supporting private sector development.

5. Cassava processing opportunities in East Africa

Uganda-based investment firm Pearl Capital Partners sees growth potential in the cassava value chain. In 2021, the firm invested $2.5 million in local cassava producer Pura Organic Agro Tech Ltd. The funds were allocated to establish a vertically integrated cassava processing plant to produce high-quality cassava flour (used to produce bread, cakes, and biscuits), tapioca starch (an adhesive in the packaging industry), and sago (an edible starch popular in India). Read more 

6. East Africa has a chance to fill Europe’s food production gap

Charlie Tryon, CEO and co-founder of investment firm Maris Africa, sees potential in East Africa for growing crops like avocados, fresh herbs, and various vegetables, primarily for export to Europe and the Middle East. “The war in Ukraine has driven energy prices and the cost of inputs much higher resulting in shortages in global supply chains. As a result, we see major disruptions across the food production industry, particularly in places like the Netherlands where food is produced in greenhouses using natural gas for heating. I see a real opportunity for East Africa to take over some of this lost production by the Netherlands, for example. We are quite bullish on the sector as a whole,” he notes.

7. Africa’s urgent need for expanded fish farming

With Africa’s population expected to rise from approximately 1.5 billion to around 2.5 billion by 2050, the demand for fish is projected to significantly outpace current levels. Consumption is anticipated to increase from about 10 million tonnes per year to between 16 million and 29 million tonnes. Overexploitation has limited the potential to boost wild catch, highlighting the urgent need for expanded aquaculture production. Fadoua Boudiba, Africa lead for aquaculture investment firm Aqua-Spark, notes that about 40% of the fish consumed on the continent is imported, despite the continent’s ample resources to support domestic production.

8. Unlocking Congo’s farming potential with mangoes, maize, and palm oil

Despite the Republic of Congo’s substantial agricultural potential, its commercial farming sector remains nascent. Michel Djombo, founder of Congolese palm oil company GTC and managing director of fertiliser producer CA Agri, has identified three promising opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. First, Djombo sees significant potential in mango production, recalling that during colonial times, Congo was one of Africa’s top mango producers; it is the source of many of the mango cultivars currently cultivated in Senegal and Mali. He also points out that Congo produces only about 10,000 tonnes of maize annually, a stark contrast to the 2 million tonnes produced by neighbouring Cameroon, with most of Congo’s maize being imported. Regarding palm oil, Djombo suggests that extensive market research isn’t necessary to recognise its local production potential; official customs data reveals the substantial quantities of oil currently imported from as far as Malaysia.


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