February 17, 2012

Banana Beer: Agri-Entrepreneurs face Challenges in Tanzania

Consultants Lucia Vancura and Ayako Kuroki spent several weeks of field research in Tanzania where they documented issues and challenges within the Nile Perch fishing and processing industry in Lake Victoria and in the banana industry in the Arusha area.  They also investigated what is sometimes referred to as BOP (Base of the Pyramid) business ideas to understand how enterprises are providing new products and services to rural and poor citizens. They met several major corporations in South Africa involved in rural telecom and fertilizers as well as many entrepreneurs in Tanzania producing products like fortified and nutritious flours (at Nyirefam and AfriYouth Pride) and bicycle-powered corn shellers at Global Cycle Solutions.

Promar’s focus on the banana industry included discussions with Banana Investments Ltd. in Arusha, an entrepreneurial business that targets low income consumers with their banana alcoholic beverage and banana wine. Although it is a growing business, Banana Investments faces many of the same challenges other Tanzanian entrepreneurs face: unpredictable power supply, quality raw material supply and financing.

With no lack of entrepreneurial ideas in Tanzania, the challenge is finding realistic ways to bring the financing and infrastructure that are essential for these companies to grow and provide services and employment in Tanzanian communities. Promar’s latest step has been meeting with leading professionals in agricultural investment and development in the UK, a country known for its innovative approaches towards agricultural development in Sub-saharan Africa. These talks with NGOs, private sector investment funds, DIDF Challenge Funds and others are providing lessons and models that can ideally inspire further support for sustainable agribusiness in Tanzania, especially among the Japanese public and private sector.

Photo: Banana Investments’ two banana alcoholic beverage products at their factory in Arusha. The company uses recycled Heineken beer bottles for bottling the banana beverages.