When you talk about Agribusiness in Africa, what comes to mind is farmers doing the regular planting, harvesting and selling to consumers. Most times, no further step is taken to create something out of these food produce, so what we see next is these produce coming back into Africa in a different form. We do the farming, the produce gets to foreign countries, where they are processed and converted into an array of products. Why can’t these food produce be processed in Africa?
Founders Africa had a chat with young Kenyan entrepreneur, Ancel Bwire, who’s set to change this narrative through tuLe Mashariki, a Uganda-based agribusiness that’s creating value out of plants, fruits and vegetables.
In this interview, he tells us more about the business, and the solutions it’s offering.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a passionate person when it comes to business. I have been involved in setting up my own and run them till date. For me the journey has been amazing as I get to work with people and brands 24/7.
Tell us about tuLe Mashariki and the solutions you’re offering
tuLe Mashariki is a company that adds value on plants, fruits and vegetables in fun ways. Before we were a restaurant but decided to scale into production. We have come up with Zidi, which are avocado based products. They are in jam, salsa, smoothies and ice cream. We decided to look at avocado since most of it goes to waste in the high season and when it’s scarce, they are costly.
What inspired the idea to begin this?
We got amazed by videos on YouTube on making products using everyday fruits and vegetables. We decided to give it a try as all was available to us and we were trying to figure out how to scale up our restaurant.
How many products does tuLe Mashariki have currently?
We have produced the salsa and jam so far. The ice cream and smoothies are still in the pipeline.
How did you raise funds to get the business started?
I sourced my salary to start the business.
What are the challenges you face running this line of business, and how do you overcome them?
High cost of production. So, we ensure that we don’t do small numbers so that we enjoy economies of scale. Also, lack of skilled labor is a challenge so we have a list of great people who come in to help us upon a call moment.
So far, how has the response been from Ugandans?
Quite amazing! They love the approach we are using to help address avocado as a fun product to have across all meals of the day.
How would you describe the business of Agriculture in Africa?
Agriculture in our continent is underutilized. The problem is we have so many small scale agribusinesses that remain so for a long time.
This means that the growth levels are not as high as they should be. This results into lost opportunities, as I have seen instances where due to low production big orders are missed. My main emphasis here is we need to develop more on capacity.
Tell us the story behind your foray into entrepreneurship
My grandfather was a great entrepreneur. He inspired me through the stories I have been told of his work and ambition. He had also done some great initiatives that are still here up to date.
Despite never meeting his life has been my biggest drive to getting into entrepreneurship.
What has been your most exciting moment since you started running Tule Mashariki?
Being awarded Runner Up Best New Start Up in the CURAD 2016 Awards. It was the first time we got into a competition and ending up number 2 was good enough for a month old business.
What’s your advice for aspiring Nigerian entrepreneurs?
This quote from Mandela says it all: African entrepreneurs don’t play small! Nelson Mandela — ‘There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.’