Thirty Six Foods is a Lagos-based social enterprise inspired by the diversity in the people and environment in all the thirty six states of Nigeria and believes nothing is better than chocolate. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Sanne Steemers a value chain consultant and a chocolate entrepreneur at Thirty Six Foods, to know more about the brand, her entrepreneurial journey and her interest in the chocolate business in Nigeria and Africa. Excerpts.
Alaba: Tell us a bit about yourself and your brand, Thirty Six Foods Nigeria Ltd?
Sanne: My name is Sanne Steemers. I have been working to connect Europe and Africa for most of my career. About five years ago, I settled in Nigeria. Even though I was reluctant to come to Lagos at first because of its reputation, I fell in love with the energy of people. Nigeria brought out my inner entrepreneur, and in addition to my value chain consulting work I decided to start manufacturing chocolate.
Thirty Six Foods operate as a social enterprise, which is a phenomenon that is not well-known in Nigeria. While we want to be profitable as a business, we also want to make sure that we create jobs, pay our staff a fair salary, and improve the lives of cocoa farmers. Nigeria has a bad reputation, and we would like to change that by making a high-quality product.
Alaba: What’s the inspiration behind your chocolate business and why Africa as a choice for your business?
Sanne: Over the past five years, I have worked in several agribusiness projects, and two years ago I started Thirty Six Foods Nigeria together with my business partner Chip Odina. We are both driven by the need to diversify the economy and create employment in Nigeria. Africa has great resources and potential, and I love to work here.
I also love chocolate. I was working as a consultant in cocoa trade when I arrived in Nigeria, and brought chocolate from abroad every time I travelled. At some point, I started experimenting with making chocolate in my kitchen. When friends and family started to ask for chocolate, I knew we had a good product.
Alaba: What’s your experience working in different African countries?
Sanne: The first African country I lived in was Burkina Faso in 2005. Since then, I have worked across Africa. I like how varied the continent is. I chose to settle in Nigeria because it suits me. Nigerians are very honest and direct, people here are ready to work as long as it has a mutual benefit. I still travel a lot for my consulting work. Last week, I returned to Burkina Faso and it was wonderful to see how the country is still friendly and charming as it was almost fifteen years ago.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Sanne: There are always challenges. The most difficult ones are those that are not in our control: roads, electricity, and climate. While I learned to make chocolate in Europe, we had to redesign our chocolate making processes entirely to be able to deal with the specific context in Nigeria. But challenges come with being an entrepreneur. We learn from them, and we find creative solution.
Alaba: How is your chocolate unique and different from other chocolate brands in Africa?
Sanne: We focus on both quality and sustainable impact. We are one of the few chocolate makers actively investing in cocoa communities to increase both quality and income. We operate as a social enterprise and offer employment opportunities to people who might not otherwise have had a job. Training is very important to us.
Alaba: How can governments support businesses especially in the agricultural value chain?
Sanne: Businesses mainly need the government to ensure good roads, constant supply of electricity, and smooth processing of permits and taxes.
Alaba: What’s your view on the chocolate business and its future in Nigeria and Africa?
Sanne: Africa is uniquely positioned in the cocoa and chocolate market. The continent produces the majority of the world’s cocoa and represents a large market. Adding value to cocoa through chocolate manufacturing is a logical next step.
Alaba: What’s the future for your business and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?
Sanne: We are growing the business slowly but steadily, we never want to compromise on quality. We have a range of products that we are very proud of, and we have started to work with companies and individuals on custom orders. In addition to the Nigerian market, we have received our first export order which will be shipped next year.
Alaba: What’s your advice for prospecting entrepreneurs and investors considering the African market?
Sanne: Become an expert in your field while also being flexible to adjust to reality. You may need to change your processes or the way you sell. And take it one step at a time.
Alaba: What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa?
Sanne: I love Nigerian food; it’s hard to choose just one dish! My top Nigerian dishes are suya, amala with vegetable soup, and pounded yam with white soup. I get them from my favourite spots in Surulere.
Regarding the holiday spot: I spend most of my holidays in Amsterdam to see my family and friends in The Netherlands. In Nigeria, I love Tarkwa Bay for a quick break. Other favourite African destinations include South Africa and Egypt.
Her Short Bio:
Sanne Steemers is a social entrepreneur and senior consultant who makes social impact economically viable. She is the founder of Thirty Six Foods Nigeria and senior partner in the Agri-Logic consulting network. She is passionate about value chain partnerships, impact investment, making Nigerian chocolate and creating jobs. Lagos & Amsterdam are home.
Anzisha Prize Announces 2020 Applications, Celebrates A Decade Of Empowering African Entrepreneurs
Anzisha Prize 2019 Fellows celebrate their victories (Source: Anzisha Prize)
Every year, the prize celebrates 20 African entrepreneurs, aged 22 years and younger, each of whom have a chance to win a shared prize of US$100,000
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, February 17, 2020 – Today, the Anzisha Prize–Africa’s premier award and fellowship for Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs – is excited to announce that the 2020 call for applications is now open. Every year, the prize celebrates 20 African entrepreneurs, aged 22 years and younger, each of whom have a chance to win a shared prize of US$100,000. The grand prize winner receives US$25,000, the 1st runner-up US$15,000, and 2nd runner-up US$12,500. Every finalist receives US$2,500.
In addition to the cash prize, selected entrepreneurs will join 120 previous winners and become Anzisha Fellows, receiving business consulting support and coaching services by a team of industry experts. They also gain access to the Young Entrepreneurs Fund – a catalytic matching fund designed to strengthen the credibility of very young entrepreneurs through investment.
“It has been an exciting 10-year journey with some of the continent’s brightest and youngest entrepreneurs. With the help of key partners and those who share in our vision, we’ve been able to support and celebrate very young entrepreneurs who represent the diversity of the African continent; entrepreneurs who tackle youth unemployment with vigour and courage beyond their years,” says, Melissa Mbazo-Ekpenyong, Deputy Director of the Anzisha Prize.
To celebrate the decennial, the Anzisha Prize has planned five regional events across the continent, including South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Kenya. The events end in October with the Anzisha Prize Forum in Nairobi, Kenya where the 2020 winners will be announced. Each event is designed to catalyze conversations around youth entrepreneurship and to gather key stakeholders within the entrepreneurship landscape to collaborate with and support these young entrepreneurs.
“The Anzisha Prize has grown to become a holistic and comprehensive prize program that celebrates, nurtures, and advocates on behalf of Africa’s young job creators,” says Daniel Hailu, Regional Head Eastern and Southern Africa Programs, Mastercard Foundation. “Ensuring young entrepreneurs have a clear pathway to learn and succeed is a core component of the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy, and we encourage entrepreneurs, especially young women to apply.”
Young African entrepreneurs between the ages of 15-22 years old, who are running job generative businesses, are encouraged to apply before 31 March 2020. Past winners of the prize include 2019 grand prize winner, education entrepreneur, Yannick Kimanuka from Democratic Republic Congo (DRC). Yannick grew up in the war-torn North Kivu eastern Province of DRC where she saw the effect that conflict had on schools in her community and vowed to empower children by increasing access to quality education. By the age of 20, Yannick founded KIM’s School Complex – a nursery and primary school which aims to improve the education of young children in her community.
As the program continues to influence and inspire young people to seek entrepreneurship as a career path, the road ahead is a promising one. To encapsulate the last 10 years of the program, the Anzisha Prize has chosen the word ‘Sankofa’ in the Ghanaian Twi language, which means “We have the capacity to revisit the past and extract knowledge and wisdom that we need to remake the future“.
Entrepreneurs are advised to download the application guide or apply for the prize at anzishaprize.org/apply.
For more information on the Anzisha Prize, to apply, and to nominate an entrepreneur, please visit the Anzisha Prize website.
Financial Inclusion: Ecobank Group And Alipay Partner On cross-border remittance
Alipay users to benefit from Ecobank’s cross-border remittance solution
LOME, Togo, February 12, 2020 – The leading pan-African bank, Ecobank has signed a cross-border remittance agreement with Alipay, the world’s leading payment and lifestyle platform, that aims to bring more inclusive financial services by providing a fast, safe, affordable and convenient way for workers to transfer money back home.
The partnership will facilitate instant transfers from Rapid transfer, Ecobank’s remittance solution, to users of Alipay, which serves more than 1.2 billion people globally together with its local e-wallet partners. This provides an additional channel option which will increase options available to users, help lower transaction costs and enhance the quality of service in the market.
Nana ABBAN, Group Consumer Banking Head said: “Our panafrican cross-border remittance solution, Rapidtransfer, has over the years been delivering transparent, convenient, and affordable services to the African diaspora and their African-based dependants. So, it is a natural extension for us to use it to deliver the same advantages to migrant workers across Africa. Through our partnership with Alipay we are further leveraging the scale and capacity of our unified payments ecosystem on the global stage.”
“We are excited to partner with Ecobank and use our technology to bring fast, affordable, and convenient remittance services to more users globally, especially workers who are living far from home,” said Ma ZHIGUO, Alipay’s head of the global remittances business. “We are committed to working with partners such as Ecobank, using innovative technologies to help global consumers gain access to inclusive financial services, creating greater value for society and bringing equal opportunities to the world.”
The solution will be rolled out across our entire footprint, subject to required local approvals.
Tony Elumelu Foundation Disburses First Tranche of $5m Partnership Commitment from African Development Bank
From Right to Left: Tony O. Elumelu, CON, Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation and Akinwunmi Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB) at the 2019 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum – Africa’s largest entrepreneurship conference. (Source: Tony Elumelu Foundation)
AfDB Joins TEF Programme Catalysing Entrepreneurship Across Africa
Tony O. Elumelu, CON, has congratulated the African Development Bank (AfDB), and AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, on their commitment to African entrepreneurship, with the disbursement of $2.5million seed capital to the AfDB-sponsored beneficiaries of the 2019 TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. $2.5m was released today, with the remainder expected to be disbursed to the entrepreneurs in Q12020.
The AfDB commitment follows the recent $8.5 million disbursement from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to 2,648 entrepreneurs in the Sahel region and Africa more broadly, and further accelerates the economic empowerment generated by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. In 2019, the Foundation significantly increased the scale and reach of it impact, with the number of beneficiaries of its flagship Entrepreneurship Programme rising from its annual commitment of 1,000, to 5,150, in collaboration with global and African partners.
With its commitment to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises and develop young entrepreneurs, AfDB joined the growing list of global development institutions benefiting from the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s unique model of identifying, training, mentoring and funding entrepreneurs and start-ups across Africa. The partnership demonstrates the implementation of the AfDB’s ten-year “Jobs for Youth in Africa” strategy, launched in 2016, to support the creation of 25 million meaningful jobs across the continent.
The partnership illustrates TEF’s willingness to share its infrastructure and know-how, with others who share the mission to empower young African entrepreneurs and TEF’s goal of creating millions of jobs, as well as generating
billions in revenue, to catalyse economic growth across the continent.
The Foundation is currently accepting applications to the 2020 cohort of its flagship Entrepreneurship Programme on TEFConnect.com, Africa’s digital hub for entrepreneurs.