Raising the bar

I am excited to publish my first blog in the Afro Optimist! And boy, it is no easy feat putting thoughts to paper with a month old baby needing my attention. All the same, the timing couldn’t be better to put out longstanding thoughts and ideas on moving Africa forward.

I get excited by innovative ideas especially ones that marry business models with development. It was 10 years ago that I sat in a fascinating presentation by the OTF (On the Frontier) Group – a group of Harvard MBA gurus who were applying business models to development and had been invited by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, to help Rwanda boost its economic growth. OTF proceeded to grow high quality coffee under special conditions and took it to the international market where it competed among the best coffee brands and fetched high premiums. Today, Rwanda’s economic success is partly credited to the transformation of its coffee sector.

Now why cant we do the same across the continent? Ghana, my beloved country, is the second largest producer of cocoa after Cote D’Ivoire. In fact, the two countries alone, produce 60% of the world’s cocoa beans. This should be an amazing wealth creating opportunity given that the chocolate industry is a $100 billion a year industry. Unfortunately, countries like mine which provide the key ingredient make almost nothing. Although I’m fully aware of the dynamics of the international trade market which is designed to keep poor countries poor, there is no reason why we shouldnt begin exploring new and bold avenues to change the game. Like OPEC countries, producers of cocoa could form a cartel and determine cocoa prices. Ultimately, what needs to happen is that the same countries should jack up their processing capacities.

Now, if you been to Ghana, you’ve probably had a taste of Ghanaian chocolate – the famous or infamous kingsbite chocolate. Ghanaians love this chocolate but sadly, nobody else does. Why? They say its hard, not creamy, tastes rubbery etc. The thing is, we have to make these brick-like chocolates because of our hot climate. They dont melt in the heat and humdity unlike popular brands like twix, cadbury etc.

So,I’ve  been thinking….how about we make quality, exportable chocolate under “special conditions ” like they did in Rwanda and test the international market. I’m talking creamy, tasty, decadent chocolate that will give us more than just crumbs of the $100 billion pie. I’ve lost sleep thinking about this and determined to learn chocolate making myself. Watch this space!

Just picture it – a 100% Ghanaian-made chocolate, maybe even handmade artisan chocolates. And why stop there? Partner with Rwanda to make chocolate infused with Rwandan coffee or Mauritian vanilla or Tunisian dates….Endless opportunities in Africa to raise the (chocolate) bar. Lets talk about it and make it happen.

Peace and Love

Photo credit: HD Wallpapers Images