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Interview With Sanne Steemers, A Dutch Chocolate Entrepreneur Connecting Europe And Africa

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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.

 

Also Read Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

 

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.

 

Visit: Thirty Six Foods

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Economy

Egypt, PRL sign train engines contracts worth $466.3M

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CAIRO – 16 November 2019: The Egyptian Railway Authority (ERA) signed with PRL (Progress Rail Automotives) a number of contracts worth $466.3 million after a meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that took place last week.

The American company will supply 50 train engines over 22 months, carry out long-term maintenance for 41 engines by June 30, and upgrade 50 others within 30 months since the conclusion of the deal. The company will also provide maintenance services and spare parts for those 141 train engines for 15 years. The value of contracts will be secured through soft loans, except for $27 million that will be paid by ERA’s treasury.

In July, ERA endorsed the technical specifications of two passenger railcars to be supplied by Transmashholding in September. Those are part of a contract to supply 1,300 railcars. One of the railcars will be tested in Hungary, so it will be granted the safety certification by the European Railway Agency. The other will be tested in Egypt. Afterwards, the first batch of railcars in the contract will be delivered in accordance with the timeline set by both parties.

The contract states that 650 railcars will be supplied from Hungary, 500 will be delivered by Russia, and 150 will be manufactured by Egypt under the supervision of Transmashholding. An Egyptian locomotive factory will be established as part of a plan to localize the locomotive industry in Egypt and transfer the know-how to workers, technicians, and engineers in the sector. The factory will produce the 150 railcars and also provide maintenance services.

The representatives of ERA and Transmashholding agreed to hold further visits and meetings to study the possibility of cooperation in rail infrastructure, mobile rail, workshops, new lines, and maintenance of existing railcars.

In the same month, an official source told Egypt Today that ERA needs 12 rail test machines to detect and repair defects in railroads revealing that contracts to purchase eight of those are being finalized.

Also Read: Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

ERA will receive four rail test machines worth €8.5 million by the end of 2020 supplied by an Austrian company with which a contract was signed a few months ago. The machines will enable the authority to better diagnose defects in the railroads which would increase the safety, and inhibit derailment accidents.

Egypt Today

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Venture Capital for Africa Launches First Dedicated Online Training Program for Africa’s Business Angels

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Mentor-Driven Capital has a critical role to play in supporting Africa’s entrepreneurs

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, November 15, 2019- 10 free training modules boost ability of participants to become high-powered mentors and savvy business angels; Mentor-Driven Capital has a critical role to play in supporting Africa’s entrepreneurs.

Over the past two years, VC4A has successfully implemented Mentor-Driven Capital programs in Nairobi, Lagos, Abuja, Cairo and Hargeisa, bringing together aspiring business angels and connecting them with promising startups. Based on learnings presented and gathered, as well as video interviews done with experienced mentors and mentees, VC4A has now launched an online course on ‘Mentor-Driven Capital’.

Many startup ecosystem studies across Africa have shown that there are limited local (angel) funding sources as well as a lack of well-developed mentorship networks in most African cities. This is why VC4A, with its local partners, has designed a program that addresses both topics at the same time.

Any startup requires cash to operate, but it is the application of capital in smart ways that secures greater impacts and returns on investments. Mentor-Driven Capital has a critical role to play in supporting the continent’s entrepreneurs. It is also where a good local business angel can make the difference between venture failure, survival and success.

First dedicated online training program designed for Africa’s business angels

According to VC4A CEO, Ben White: “Since VC4A’s offline programs can only reach a limited number of participants, we’ve decided to create an online course that captures much of the content of the recent mentor-focused work. Anyone who is interested can now take advantage of the first dedicated training program designed for African business professionals keen to guide Africa’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs to success.”

Also Read: Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

The goal of this course is to boost the ability of participants to become high-powered mentors that support entrepreneurs while also learning to think and act like savvy business angels. Participants receive expert guidance, training, and hands-on support. The things aspiring mentors need to bring to the table are their valuable time, knowledge and networks.

Course structure

The course is divided into ten modules. Each module is introduced by a presenter and accompanied by short clips where experts share their opinions about the same topic. The modules are:

– Introduction to Mentor-Driven Capital

– Becoming a business mentor

– Structuring the mentor relationship

– Investing your time

– Investing your network

– The angel investor mindset

– Developing an investment strategy

– Investing your money

– Common startup challenges

– Tips for success

GET STARTED TODAY! Visit: http://bit.ly/2Qq0xx1

Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A)

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EY names southern Africa’s top entrepreneurs

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JOHANNESBURG – Southern Africa’s top three entrepreneurs have been named at the 22nd Annual EY World Entrepreneur Awards, beating out other finalists who demonstrated excellence in entrepreneurial spirit, value creation, strategic direction, impact, innovation and purpose-driven leadership.

Chief executives, founders and leading entrepreneurs attended the regional programme of the world’s most prestigious business awards for entrepreneurs: the Global EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™.

“Largely unconstrained by the mechanisms and processes of corporate entities, entrepreneurs go-to-market capability and ability to scale innovative ideas is far quicker than their corporate counterparts,” assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services company EY said in a statement.

“The programme makes a difference through the way it recognises this entrepreneurial agility, inspired vision, leadership and achievement.”

This year’s finalists included entrepreneurs who have built businesses across all sectors offering innovation and exceptional acumen and leadership on the topics of organisational culture, upskilling unemployed youth, tourism and conservation, effective food supply chain management, online payment and credit systems, insurance and insurance underwriting, the owner and operator hotel model and property and real estate across Africa.

Also Read: Interview With Deborah Ogwuche, Founder Of Food Channel Africa

The winner in the Master category was Craig Irvine, managing director of Irvine’s, a poultry focused company with operations in six countries.

Bronwyn Corbett, co-founder of Grit Real Estate Income Group won in the Exceptional category while the award in the Emerging category went to Ashraf Mohamed, founder of the Polar Ice Cream company.

The EY Lifetime Achievement Award for entrepreneurship was handed to medical doctor and University of the Witwatersrand chancellor Dr Judy Dlamini, one of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs who launched the Mbekani Group 22 years ago.

The group includes a range of companies involved in surgical equipment, facilities management, security, commercial property and luxury fashion retail.

“These entrepreneurs demonstrate extraordinary business acumen, financial performance excellence and inspired strategic direction,” said Azim Omar of EY Africa Growth Markets Leaders.

“These and most entrepreneurs embrace bold thinking that often sees opportunity in adversity; a relentless drive to build a better working world; and an unwavering commitment to solving their clients’ issues.”

The southern Africa awards covered Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Madagascar, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

– African News Agency (ANA) 

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