African entrepreneurs have incredible potential to make African agriculture a dynamic, growth-generating sector that fills a growing market niche and engages the youth. However, small- to medium-scale food producers and processors face enormous challenges in building successful businesses, including access to finance, restrictive policy and legal environments, and a lack of technical and business skills.
Samba Foods, a food processing company
based in Ghana, was the first to
commercially produce and sell packaged
shito pepper sauces.
After returning to my home country of Ghana from Germany, where I had trained as a nurse-anaesthetist and intensive therapist, I set up an out-patient clinic in the village of Dawhenya and began to cultivate peppers on the side. As I considered how to add value to the produce I raised, I had a wonderful idea. Shito, a traditional pepper sauce that is a central part of the diet in Ghana’s coastal regions in Ghana, had become very popular among students in boarding institutions. Yet there was no ready-made shito on Ghanaian market shelves. This was the market niche that I identified and set out to capture.
I first tested the market by supplying a small number of processed shito products to markets in Accra. As my company was the first to produce, package, and distribute shito in commercial quantities, the sales were overwhelming. A new enterprise was born and christened Samba. Samba grew rapidly, and our shito products were soon found in department stores throughout Ghana. Samba shito accompanied the Ghana Armed Forces troops on peace-keeping operations around the world, and small quantities were exported to the U.S. and Europe.
Having achieved this success, it is clear that banks and other traditional finance institutions underestimated the resilience, tenacity, and determination of Samba. It is unfortunate that finance institutions, rather than assisting small enterprises in the identification of suitable solutions to their struggles, too often allow them to fold. SMEs in the agribusiness industry have the potential to lead Ghana’s development agenda through value addition to agricultural raw materials. With adequate support, Samba could become an indigenous agribusiness giant in Ghana and the sub-region—a household name that is recognized around the world and proudly associated with Ghana.