Aissata Diakite is a Malian entrepreneur who is adding value to Mali’s Agro-industry. Diakite traces her interest in agriculture to her parents. With a veterinarian father, who was also a consultant in the agricultural sector, and a mother managing a milk processing unit, she developed an interest in agriculture while living in the Mopti region.
She left the countryside to study for her baccalaureate in Mali’s capital, Bamako, before heading to Amiens, France, to complete an agribusiness course. While in France, she took up a side hustle where she had lots of experience in branding and marketing food products. She also used her free time as a student to make fruit juices in her “little laboratory.”
It was during this period that she built her entrepreneurial and management skills. She returned to Mali after her university learning in France to start a fruit company called Zabbaan Holding. According to Diakite, she ventured into fruit juice production because Mali has fruits in abundance that were going to waste.
“Every two or three months, we have fruits in abundance which end up rotting because we do not have enough processing units to make use of it,” she said.
It was in 2016 that her dream of setting up a fruit juice brand was actualized after getting about $225,880 from an “Anglophone investment fund.” She used the funds and other grants she secured to build Zabbaan Holding and hire workers and other needed facilities. As of 2018, she had 65 staff and five contract workers.
Her juices are made from wild plants from the African savannah, most of which have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, according to SPORE. Diakite, who is in her early 30s, has so far produced varieties of fruit juice like a punchy mango and baobab mix called “the king”, as stated by African Vibes.
According to Lemonde.fr, her fruit juice is already ranked among the most innovative start-ups in the French-speaking world.
Starting Zabbaan Holding was not all smooth sailing. There were cultural issues. “When you talk to seniors, you have to look down, not have too much confidence in yourself. In short, the opposite of what you have to do to sell your project,” she told Lemonde.fr.
She also had a problem getting uniform raw materials for her juice production. She had to assemble some 200 farmers who became her constant suppliers.
The other challenge she encountered had to do with the packaging because the bottles she used were not produced in the country at an affordable rate. She had to import bottles from Europe.
Aside from her fruit juice business, Diakite is a public speaker, an activist and a youth mobilizer. She has served as a consultant for some international organizations, including the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF) and Meet Africa, a program of the European Union.
As of 2018, her company’s factory in Bamako was producing between 10,000 and 20,000 bottles a day, selling its output across the Economic Community of West African States and Europe.
Apart from her company being selected as one of the top 10 innovative startups in the French-speaking world by the international organization of La Francophonie, she recently launched the Youth Entrepreneurship and Food Security Forum to promote entrepreneurship among young people.