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From exporting Nigerian superfoods to the American market to enhancing local food supply chains, these entrepreneurs are tapping into Nigeria’s agricultural potential.

1. Building an agricultural exports venture

Lanre Awojoodu, CEO of Sourcing and Produce, an agricultural commodities trading business, started out by buying and selling cocoa. He later expanded to several other crops, like hibiscus flowers, sesame seeds, and ginger. Over the years, he has endured numerous challenges – including sourcing issues, financing hurdles, and client non-payments – to position his company where it is today. Read the full article

2. Businessman grows commodity trading business after landing first client on LinkedIn

Another company that has found success in exporting Nigerian agricultural produce is AgroEknor. CEO Timi Oke landed his first client through LinkedIn. In 2012, while working at a bank in the UK, Oke took the advice of an import-export trader he had met who suggested he join specific industry groups on LinkedIn. “For about six to twelve months, I was constantly on these groups, asking questions, eliciting responses and then contacting those individuals directly. Eventually an importer from Mexico asked me if I could supply five containers of dried hibiscus flowers.”

Oke took a career break, not officially quitting just yet, and asked his brother and a good friend to join him in the newly registered company called AgroEknor. It was a scramble to deliver that first order. The partners crowdfunded and used their own money to raise the necessary capital to buy the hibiscus flowers from middlemen, who sourced them from small-scale farmers in northern Nigeria. Read the full article

3. Cassava processing: Turning roots into revenue

Psaltry International is a cassava processing company that produces food-grade starch, high-quality cassava flour, and cassava-based sorbitol – a healthier sweetener used in toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, and high-end drinks. Yemisi Iranloye came up with the idea for the business in 2005 while working at a company where she gained extensive experience with cassava, recognising its commercial potential. While still employed there, she intermittently paid for her first piece of land, which she later developed into her farm and factory. Over the years, the company has supplied clients such as Unilever, Nestlé, Nigerian Breweries and Promasidor, to name a few. Read the full article

4. Startup links Nigerian farmers with buyers

Zowasel is a Nigerian startup that has developed a digital marketplace connecting small-scale farmers directly with buyers, including both multinational and Nigerian food processors. Some of these buyers cater to the local market, while others are exporters. “Many large Nigerian companies import commodities as it is difficult for them to procure the right quantity and quality locally,” explains co-founder and CEO Jerry Oche. “We take care of corporates’ quality specifications by teaching farmers to cultivate the correct varieties and we train them in terms of post-harvest handling. We aggregate these commodities from farmers in our network and deliver to our buyers. We enable our buyers to focus on their core business of processing and manufacturing, while we take care of the raw material supply.” Read the full article

5. Seeing potential in the palm oil demand-supply mismatch

In Nigeria, the demand for palm kernel oil, extracted from the oil palm tree, far exceeds local production capabilities. Palm oil is not only a staple for cooking but also a crucial component in various food and cosmetic products. Recognising this supply-demand mismatch, Releaf, a Nigerian company founded in 2017, has introduced innovative equipment and software to enhance the efficiency and profitability of the oil palm value chain.

One major issue is that small-scale farmers, who account for 80% of the production, rely on outdated and inefficient processing techniques, resulting in poor-quality raw materials for downstream factories. “On the supply side of the market we saw the smallholder farmers were engaged in very rudimentary processes that damage the quality of the vegetable oil,” said Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf.

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To combat this, Releaf has engineered a machine capable of transforming any quality of palm nut into high-quality inputs for food factories. This machine costs less than half a typical de-sheller, and boasts a 95% accuracy rate, minimising waste. It operates 25 times faster than traditional local cracking equipment and 240 times faster than manual de-shelling. Read the full article

6. Seizing opportunities in Nigeria’s cocoa sector

John A. Alamu’s entrepreneurial journey began while he was employed as a monitoring and evaluation specialist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). His first venture involved providing microloans to ten farmers, a number that eventually swelled to a thousand. Recognising a market opportunity, Alamu began purchasing food crops – maize, soya bean, and sorghum – from these farmers, who were also his loan clients, and selling them to larger regional buying agents.

However, the profit margins in this business were modest, prompting him to explore more lucrative opportunities in cash crops. Cocoa emerged as a viable option. After some time trading in cocoa, Alamu took a strategic leap into processing by acquiring a local cocoa factory. Read the full article

7. Breaking into the multi-billion dollar coconut industry

Nigerian entrepreneur Ebun Feludu first got involved in the coconut industry because of personal health needs. She had been lactose intolerant her entire life, but about a year before her 40th birthday, she started experiencing severe reactions to dairy milk. Struggling to find a plant-based alternative, she began producing coconut milk in her kitchen for personal use. At the same time, she sought to teach her young sons about entrepreneurship. They used leftover coconut to bake banana-coconut bread, which he sold at school fairs and pop-up shops. The loaves were a hit, and demand grew. The combination of not finding a suitable plant-based milk alternative and the success of her coconut loaf sales encouraged her to start a new business venture focusing on coconut products. Her first clients included the Lagos coffee chain Café Neo and the pharmacy group HealthPlus. Read the full article

8. Afrivana: Exporting Nigerian superfoods to American tables

When he was a teenager, Shalom Bako Dangombe’s family moved from Bauchi State in northern Nigeria to Orange County, California. In the US, Bako completed high school, attended college, and nearly pursued a professional soccer career. He played for his college team and later for the Los Angeles Galaxy, while earning a degree in communications.

Yet now, in his mid-thirties, Bako spends his days engaging with smallholder farmers in northern Nigeria to grow hibiscus flowers for Afrivana, the company he established in 2019. Afrivana specialises in marketing and distributing African superfoods, particularly dried hibiscus flowers. The company sells its products in bulk or under private label to clients in the US, UK, and beyond. Read the full article 

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