Africa supplies at least 60 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. A significant portion of the beans is shipped to the West in their raw form. In other words, exported cocoa is not processed to add value so as to generate enough foreign exchange.
This age-long trade of cocoa beans from the continent has in a way denied the producers of cocoa on the continent much-needed revenue for development. It has also left cocoa farmers in a vulnerable financial situation. In recent days, many cocoa farms in Ghana, one of the leading producers of cocoa, have been sold to small-scale gold miners for gold mining because cocoa farming is no longer lucrative.
In 2018, Bloomberg reported that farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast make only about 5.5 percent of a global supply chain worth more than $100 billion. This is even less than the 15% governments take as value-added tax on the sale of chocolate products in Western countries where chocolate is most consumed.
Although in recent years, there has been an attempt to process cocoa into chocolate and other products on the continent, it is still relatively on a small scale. Also, such local value addition has been irregular as a result of financial constraints and a difficult business environment on the continent.
Despite these challenges, more African entrepreneurs are heeding the call to help change the face of the cocoa industry by becoming active participants through the establishment of cocoa factories to produce chocolates, among others. One such entrepreneur is Uzoamaka Igweike from Nigeria, one of the cocoa-growing countries in Africa. With a population of over 200 million, Nigeria has only about 10 chocolate producers.
What’s more, the chocolate market is dominated by foreign players. “We need scores of Nigerian chocolate makers making great quality chocolate to capture the market so that we can enjoy the full value of our cocoa,” Igweike, who founded Loom Craft Chocolate, a chocolate-making company in Abuja in 2020, told Business Day.
Nigeria’s Chocolate confectionery industry is projected to be worth $31.1 million in 2021, showing that Nigerians love chocolate. This is the perfect time for entrepreneurs to get into the industry, Igweike said.
Also serving as the chief executive officer of her company, the Nigerian businesswoman said that she ventured into the industry because it was difficult for her to get good quality chocolates in the market.
“As a home baker, I found it very difficult to get good quality chocolate in stores and this didn’t add to the fact that Nigeria produces a significant portion of the world’s cocoa. I started researching how to make chocolate at home,” Igweike said.
“I set up Loom Craft Chocolate when I realized that I was making higher quality chocolate than the imported chocolate that flooded the supermarket shelves.”
Igweike’s journey has not been smooth sailing. One of the major challenges for her is insecurity in Nigeria. She told Business Day that it impedes travel and access to cocoa farms.
“Also making chocolate requires a steady supply of power which we currently lack. There are other challenges we face but solving these two would make a big, positive difference,” she noted.
Currently, she believes her country Nigeria has great cocoa and creative chocolate makers. “Once we meet the regulatory requirements to export, our chocolate can compete anywhere in the world.”