Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Entrepreneurs’ story

Investing in the exceptional African creativity

Africa intrigues and inspires the world. Some recent examples prove it: the Gucci Summer 2019 collection; the Dior cruise 2019 collection, inspired by African fashion with some fabrics printed in…

Africa intrigues and inspires the world. Some recent examples prove it: the Gucci Summer 2019 collection; the Dior cruise 2019 collection, inspired by African fashion with some fabrics printed in Côte d’Ivoire; the Milan fashion week 2021 opened by the Fab Five, five designers from Africa. And so on.

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Acceleration programs: a miracle solution for early-stage companies? (2/2)

In recent years, “acceleration” programs have proliferated on the African continent. What lies behind this trendy concept? What does an acceleration program bring to a company? After having explored the…

In recent years, “acceleration” programs have proliferated on the African continent. What lies behind this trendy concept? What does an acceleration program bring to a company?

After having explored the different facets of acceleration programs currently deployed on the African continent in a first article (available here), we will focus here with a practical case study of a company benefiting from an acceleration program, with a joint-interview of Mohamed Diaby and Ybrahim Traoré, CEO and co-director, respectively, of Citrine.

Founded in 2014, Citrine Corporation is a company based in Grand-Bassam, southern Côte d’Ivoire, specializing in the production and marketing of Zatwa brand agricultural products in the sub-region, Europe and the United States.

Like many young African companies, Citrine has had great difficulty accessing “traditional” financing (bank loans, equity investments, etc.). However, since 2020, the company has benefited from the I&P Acceleration program in the Sahel (IPAS), which has provided financial resources (seed funding in the form of a repayable advance to meet operating expenses, pilot phases, market testing, research & development, equipment purchases), as well as technical support to strengthen the team’s skills in various areas.

 

What is your business plan ?

Mohamed Diaby : From the very beginning, our intention was to promote the local dishes and cultures from the southern region of Côte d’Ivoire, where we both come from.

Ybrahim Traoré : Our ambition was also to show young Africans that you don’t need to leave the country to succeed. Starting a business and creating jobs is a way to deal with the problem of clandestine migration, which is occurring in several African countries. This is why our business is not limited to import-export: we ensure not only the marketing phase but also the production phase of cereals, fruits and vegetables, such as placali and attiéké, which are produced in the Grand-Bassam region and widely consumed by Ivorians in Côte d’Ivoire and abroad. We have also created our own brand, Zatwa Impex.

 

How did you come up with this idea?

M. D. : We met at the university during our graduation cycle. To complete our degree, we needed to find a work-study program, but we chose to go directly into entrepreneurship.

We thus started this project based on the following observation: the entire distribution circuit of African products and foodstuffs (attiéké, smoked fish, etc.) was run by non-African communities. In France, for example, these grocery stores are owned by the Asian community. We thought this was a shame… and that’s how the journey started.

Y. T. : We didn’t intend to only produce and sell attiéké but also to guarantee the quality of the products put on the market. The company is doing well. When we started, we had about ten employees, 90% of whom were women. Today, we have about 60 permanent jobs and we employ up to 100 people during the production period.

 

Your company has been supported since 2020 by the I&P Acceleration in the Sahel program. What does this partnership bring you ?

M. D. : I would say many things! We had approached the Ivorian fund Comoé Capital a few years ago, but we were not quite ready yet. The opportunity for partnership arose thanks to the launch of the I&P Acceleration in the Sahel program, led by Investisseurs & Partenaires and financed by the European Union.

Today we owe a lot to the team that follows up and gives us very useful advice. I&P and Comoé Capital helped us to carry out our market study on cassava products (such as attiéké and placali mentioned previously) which allowed us to confirm their sales potential, in Côte d’Ivoire and with the African diaspora (from Congo, Niger, Ghana, Benin…), who also consume a lot of cassava. Then, the program allowed us to increase our production capacity with the help of production equipment (ovens, machines, packaging, a crusher, raw materials).

Y. T. : The program’s support also allows us to lighten the workload of our staff. Our employees work full time but produce much more. They can now produce two containers in a month, instead of one. The workload is less tiring but they earn a lot more because it gives us the opportunity to increase their wages. They rely heavily on us and on their job because it helps them support their family needs.

Thanks to the I&P Acceleration program, we have been able to expand our production capacity with a lighter, less tiring workload for our employees and a higher salary to boot.

 

What’s next ?

Y. T. : The program’s support will help us tackle environmental issues. For example, we are going to benefit from a technical assistance mission* for the recycling of waste. We will be able to recover and transform cassava skins and starch into bio-gas.

M. D. : In the medium term, we’d like to consolidate Citrine’s position on the local market. It is important for us to strengthen the sale of our products in markets and supermarkets and contribute to food security in Côte d’Ivoire.

L’appui du programme nous permet de nous attaquer aux questions environnementales. Nous bénéficions d’une mission d’assistance technique pour mesurer l’efficacité de toute notre chaîne de production.The program’s support allows us to address environmental issues. We have a technical assistance mission to measure the efficiency of our entire production chain.

 

 

Keywords

Acceleration: Mentoring, financing or networking services provided by private actors (investment funds, incubators, etc.) and financial backers to small businesses to support them in their start-up phase.

Seed: All the resources granted to a company to meet the expenses related to its start-up (working capital, operating expenses, research and development, purchase of equipment and technologies) and to prepare it for fund-raising.

Technical assistance: All non-financial resources granted to the managerial and/or operational teams of a company to strengthen their skills in several areas (strategy, financial and/or fiscal management, marketing, production, etc.). Generally, technical assistance takes the form of training (individual or collective) or support missions carried out by an expert

 


[1] I&P Acceleration in the Sahel, launched in 2020, is a program deployed by the Investisseurs & Partenaires group and funded by the European Union. The program targets 13 countries in the Sahel sub-region and provides start-ups with access to the financing and skills necessary to enable their development and thus promote the creation of decent jobs.

[2] HACCP (Hazard analysis Critical Control Point) is the main platform of international legislation concerning manufacturing for all actors of the food industry. The HACCP aims to validate the implementation of the food safety system.

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Voices of African women entrepreneurs (1/2): Patricia Zoundi Yao and Catherine Krobo-Edusei

65% of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs according to the latest study published by the Roland Berger consulting firm at the end of September…

65% of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs according to the latest study published by the Roland Berger consulting firm at the end of September 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce 80% of the continent’s agricultural commodities and represent 70% of the continent’s agricultural force. 24% of African women aged 18 to 64 have started a business (compared to 17% in Latin America, 12% in North America, and 8% in Europe and Central Asia).

Despite these facts, African women still face many inequalities, particularly in terms of access to employment, remuneration and overall access to economic resources. What a contradictory situation… On International Women’s Day, the blog offers you 4 portraits of African women with inspiring stories!

 

Patricia Zoundi Yao

 

Patricia, who are you?

I am Patricia Zoundi Yao, an entrepreneur at heart as I like to define it. I head three structures, operating in different sectors of activity but all targeting people at the bottom of the pyramid. In 2009, I founded Quickcash, a money transfer service for the rural world. We are now transforming ourselves into an Agency Bank considering the needs and competition observed on the ground. This will allow us to dematerialize traditional banking services in rural villages. I also created Digital Hub, which offers digital services to young and connected customers. Finally, I work since 2014 in a structure dedicated to the agricultural sector, Canaanland. Since 2014, I have also been working in an agricultural sector structure, Canaanland, which provides support for women farmers (70%) and young people (30%). We train them to sustainable farming techniques and organic farming, and we support them in the marketing phase. Within 3 years, we plan to launch 5 franchises in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, which will follow three key principles: 0 deforestation, 0 pesticides and 100% inclusive. Small producers in particular are systematically included in our value chain.

 

Why did you choose the rural sector?

I myself come from the rural world. My parents are farmers, and I worked very early in the village-based business run by my mother. I only discovered Abidjan after my baccalaureate: I found it too modern and it has been difficult to find my place. In my entrepreneurial activities, I naturally turned to what I knew best. When I started my activities, I had not heard of the concept of “social entrepreneurship”. I learned about it for the first time around 2013-2014. I was doing something I loved, period. I have always been immersed in this environment, where people are actually sincere: they are not restricted, they are real.  You see the effort, the energy they give out, even if they are extremely poor.

 

What difficulties did you face as a woman?

Honestly, I didn’t have any problems related to my status as a woman. For me, being a woman is not a problem, it’s even an asset. I consider that this has given me essential skills and qualities to succeed in entrepreneurship: perseverance, the fact that you are the one who gets up a little early, who goes to bed a little late…

Of course, I faced difficulties throughout my career, but they are related to the business, not to the fact I’m a woman. Once again, I think it has rather helped me. Women can handle many things at the same time: the house, the kids. That’s why rural women are my role models: they manage to work in the field, take care of the children, the kitchen, the household… I’ve also heard that women are more passionate and dedicated than men… I don’t know if that’s true, but at least I am a passionate person! What drives me is to offer opportunities to women and young people, especially in rural areas, where there is not much going on. Sometimes we feel that success models are only found in urban areas.

 

An advice to give to (future) women entrepreneurs?

My advice is to get started, because we will never be “fully ready”. There is never a “good time”. We don’t know in 5 years what the new focus will be, but these days you can find training and financing opportunities fully dedicated to women. It is also important to focus on the solutions and not the problems. It’s very valuable to see things in a new perspective and take the leadership. Believe me, you have the skills and resources to get started and succeed!

 

 

Catherine Krobo Edusei

 

Who are you?

I am Ms. Catherine Krobo Edusei, I am 57 years old and I am a managing Director at Eden Tree Limited. Eden Tree is a leading producer and distributor of high-end fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs in Ghana.

 

Did you experience any difficulties because you are a woman? If yes, can you give us some examples?

It was difficult getting finance facility from the banks and venture capital funds at the beginning, for which if I had been a man it would have been possible. I also experienced difficulties working with men from certain tribes due to their outlook on what a Woman’s place should be.

 

Who are / are your model (s)? Why?

Oprah Winfry, Mia Angelou, Yaa Asantewa, Mrs Clinton were and are very strong women not afraid to shatter the glass ceiling. It is true that a woman has to fight twice as much as a man, cause men network in their various clubs, where opportunities are scooped up. So far Women do not do too well regarding networking and sharing opportunities amongst themselves.

 

An advice to (future) women entrepreneurs?

They should give it their all, focus, work hard, believe in themselves and they will not regret it.

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La Laiterie du Berger, the trajectory of a social enterprise in Senegal

Jérémy Hajdenberg reviews the history of the Senegalese company La Laiterie du Berger and its founder Bagoré-Xavier Bathily. Valuing local dairy production, the main objective pursued by La Laiterie du…

Jérémy Hajdenberg reviews the history of the Senegalese company La Laiterie du Berger and its founder Bagoré-Xavier Bathily. Valuing local dairy production, the main objective pursued by La Laiterie du Berger, has proved to be a difficult choice in the Senegalese context, but the company has been able to adapt and evolve, to become a major reference on certain agro-industrial issues in Senegal.

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