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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

Investment

Fatura secures a $3 Million pre-series A investment round

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Fatura co-Founders (Source: Hossam Ali)

Fatura round was co-led by Sawari Ventures and Arzan VC, with the participation of Egypt Ventures, EFG-EV, The Cairo Angels as well as Khwarizmi Ventures. The B2B marketplace was launched late 2019 and already crossed the 1 Billion EGP yearly GMV milestone, and that’s just in the FMCG sector. Fatura is a mobile application that connects wholesalers & manufacturers with retailers in different industries. The start-up has been operating in the FMCG industry and it is currently piloting in other industries.

During the past year the start-up also extended its reach to more than 25,000 retailers and more than  500 wholesalers and manufacturers across 20 governorates, exchanging more than 10,000 SKUs. Fatura also cracked the surface of financial services by introducing digital lending with focus on retailers financing, aiming to add more services in that area in the near future.

“Fatura’s existing infrastructure has enabled them to expand their offerings to new customers,” commented Hany Al-Sonbaty, Managing Partners at Sawari Ventures, adding that, “the team has demonstrated that they have the vision to identify new opportunities and the prowess and agility to implement and deliver. We are excited to become part of their journey.”

Hossam Ali, Fatura’s CEO, commented on the news saying: “There is a great opportunity in the B2B space in Egypt, that is growing as the players are becoming digitally mature and ready. Collectively, the digital B2B players in the FMCG space capture less than 5% of the market and there is a long way to go. Our conviction is to stay asset-light, be inclusive to all the industry stakeholders and to attract the best on-ground acquisition force across the country”

Fatura has built a strong foundation and infrastructure that enables it to monetize its data and services. The company’s future plans include new services that support the different players in its ecosystem including manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, multiple digitization initiatives with focus on digital payments and regional expansion into new markets.

“Being part of Fatura’s success story is exciting for us. The FMCG industry is in need of Fatura’s product, which will solve many challenges faced by small retailers. Also, its fintech angle complements the core product and enables retailers to scale their business further with less working capital constraints.” – Hasan J. Zainal, Managing Partner of Arzan Venture Capital

This investment will gear Fatura to extend its services beyond e-commerce and digital lending to optimize the exchange of goods, money and information in the B2B context while focusing on convenience and the different users’ experience.

 

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Business Africa Online, InnoPower and Afrigrants to Host some of the best African, USA Innovators and Investors

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Business Africa Online, InnoPower, LLC (USA) and Afrigrants Foundation are set to Host some of the best Innovators, Investors, Business Consultants and Industry Experts in the world at the Going Global Summit with the theme, “Africa: The Next Global Frontier”. The summit is a part of InnoPower Minority Business Week (IMBW) hosted by Innopower, LLC (USA) scheduled to hold from Monday, June 14 to Friday, June 18, 2021 and currently ongoing.

The Going Global Initiative intends to boost a stronger pipeline of awareness, access to Africa’s talent and solutions with these focus areas; Entrepreneurship, Connection and Advocacy. The InnoPower Going Global Summit 2021 is a digital summit and intends to connect Africa to the global economy, starting with the USA. It will attract global business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, decision and policy makers around the world, especially from Africa and the United States of America (U.S.A). The Summit will feature panel sessions, virtual pitch, awards and networking.

Panel Discussion Topics will cover:

  1. Positioning African entrepreneurs for global exposure and impact.
  2. Raising Global Capital: Understanding the Why, When and How.
  3. Post COVID-19: Exploring US-Africa Investment Opportunities.

Esteemed Guests include:

  • Dr. Akintoye Akindele (Nigeria) – Executive Chairman, Platform Capital
  • Lawrence Walter (USA) – Vice President, Entrepreneurship at IEDC
  • Ayodeji Balogun (Nigeria)– Founder and CEO of Premier Credit
  • Lydia Idem (USA) – Founder & Managing Director of FM Capital Group
  • Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes (Nigeria) – Founding Partner & CEO, Aruwa Capital Management
  • Nike Anani (Nigeria) – Founder, Nike Anani Practice Ltd
  • Ali Hussein Kassim (Kenya) – Tech Executive and Advisor
  • Mohamed Aboulnaga  (Egypt) – Tech Entrepreneur
  • Shila Nieves Burney (USA) – Founder, Zane Venture Fund & Zane Access
  • Segun Abiona (Nigeria) – Founder & Innovation Director, Nicole & Giovanni
  • Manisha Dookhony (Mauritius) – Economist & Senior Advisor
  • Sherif Nessim (Egypt) – Founder & Managing Director, Jedar Capital
  • Linda Wayoe (Ghana) – Director, AM Group & Board Member UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce
  • Mariam Kamel (Egypt) – Manager, AUC Angels
  • Horesia Nyawade (South Africa) – CIO & Co-Founder, Vuuqa
  • Muhammida El Muhajir (Ghana) – Global Brand Strategist

Conceptualised by Afrigrants Foundation, Pitch School Africa is an annual youth entrepreneurship event  that trains young entrepreneurs on how to pitch their business ideas to potential investors. Over 200 students across Africa participated in the Pitch School Africa 2021 stream, which has now been narrowed down to just 4 BIG ideas that will be featured at the Grand Finale. The 4 Finalists that will pitch their business ideas at the 2021 InnoPower Going Global are; Gualo Confidence (Nigeria) – Gualocian fish processing, Budani Bulayani (Botswana) – Budzi Products, Favour Adeleke (Nigeria) – Qiqi Farms and Oluwatomilola Mustapha (Nigeria) – Raytreat.

The Pitch Jury are;

  1. Ronda Taylor, PhD Department Chair Entrepreneur Program, Ivy Tech Community College-Central Indiana.
  2. Dr. Kristin Burton Asst. Professor, Entrepreneurship, College of Business, Purdue University.
  3. Joe Albano, Principal Logika International LLC.

The winner will be awarded the grand prize of $5000 with a one year mentorship from the finest business developers across the world.

Awards

Over the past 12 months, businesses have faced remarkable challenges due to global economic meltdown and the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Many ventures were forced to shut their doors through legislation and other circumstances. Some managed to survive by thinking out of the box and adapting to the changing and dire times. Business Africa Online (BAO) with the support of InnoPower, LLC (USA) will be recognising and awarding three (3) African resilient startups that have pulled out all the steps to grow back better through the pandemic in Africa. The awardees will get a support grant of $500 each with an acceleration program led by global business developers.

“Our strategic partnership with InnoPower, LLC (USA) is to support and further drive its Going Global Initiatives here in Africa. Also to reaffirm our commitment to connect African entrepreneurs and businesses with US-based investors. We are inspired and motivated everyday by the incredible African (Social) entrepreneurs and investors within our community and their desire to impact the world positively.” says Alaba Ayinuola, Founder & CEO of Business Africa Online

To register for this virtual summit, please visit bit.ly/InnoPowerGoingGlobal2021

 

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AI for Good Global Summit founder Stephen Ibaraki confirmed as AI Expo Africa 2021 keynote speaker

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AI for Good Global Summit founder, Stephen Ibaraki (Source: AI Expo Africa)

AI for Good Global Summit founder, Chairman of the AI for Good Outreach Committee, industry analyst, venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur Stephen Ibaraki has been confirmed as a keynote speaker for AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE which takes place 7th to 9th September.

Ibaraki is the first VIP keynote speaker to be confirmed for AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE. In his keynote address, entitled, “5th Machine Age Driving Digital Reshaping” he intends to explore the “Society 5.0” and “Smart Humanity”.

Ibaraki who is a 16 time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award, most recently in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) category, is also the chairman and managing general partner of REDDS Capital. In addition to more than 300 awards and recognitions as well as over 300 global engagements impacting over $100-trillion in sustainable investments, Ibaraki is also a contributor for IT World Canada and Forbes on issues around AI.

Ibaraki’s keynote abstract states, “In popular stories about Chaos Theory, the wing beats of a butterfly in Geneva, are connected to the violent storms in your hometown in Africa. Global ecosystems, all interconnected thus force multiplied and amplified, are at an historical inflection point. These are founded on technology acceleration, with more disruption in 5 years, than the last 10,000 years. This Digital Reshaping will forever change governments, industry, academia, education, investments, startups, media, society, culture, our lives and our children’s future. What will the world look like, advanced by Smart Humanity, Society 5.0, 5th Machine Age, AI and innovation trends addressing global challenges and opportunities? What are the exponential change making innovations you must track, implement, and resources you must use to ensure success and not failure during these chaotic next five years?

Now entering it’s fourth successful year, AI Expo Africa is Africa’s largest B2B / B2G AI, RPA and 4IR smart tech trade event and conference, with the 2021 edition building to be the biggest yet with over 5000 delegates registering interest and expected to join the three-day online event.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, founder of AI Expo Africa and CEO of AI Media Group commented, “It’s a real honour to welcome Stephen as one of our VIP keynote speakers.  We have been working with the ITU, Geneva since 2019 around partnering with the global AI4Good movement and the Africa region and this is another great commitment towards growing collaborations around AI4Good in our region. This announcement follows the recent conclusion of the first African focused ITU AI4Good Innovation Factory Challenge that received 44 applications from 12 African countries & 5 finalists using AI-powered innovation for diverse sectors in Africa covering Fintech, Agritech, Cleantech, and Insurtech.”

Over 30 organisations have so far signed up to exhibit at the expo. These include headline event partner Intel, Darktrace, Future Tech, Automation Anywhere partner 1ai, The Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa, InstaDeep, Aizatron, IBA Group, Zindi, Versus, Comparisure, Robotiq AI Africa, ecosystem Ai, Cognizance, Inspired Testing, Atura, Amathuba AI, COGO People Analytics, Elzware, WizzPass, Fliptin, Kosa AI, Learning Machines, Social Lab, Ashanti AI, and Curacel.  In all about 80 speakers will make up the speaker list at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE, with more keynotes set to be announced in the coming weeks.

 

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