Fill your stomach in Africa! Business Opportunities are Captured by Action | NHK News
There are tough Japanese young people who are trying to confront the challenges
Fill your stomach in Africa! Business Opportunity is Grabbed by Action 20 Aug 19:06
"How to feed 2.5 billion people"
This is a major issue that will determine the future of the African economy. Contrary to Japan's declining birthrate and aging population, Africa has a rapidly increasing population. In 30 years, the number is expected to increase to 2.5 billion, double the current level. While attracting worldwide attention as the “final huge market”, African agriculture is still low in productivity, and as it is, large amounts of food must be imported and aided. Japanese youth are trying to challenge this challenge! (International Department reporter Yu Kobayashi)
A man who started an onion shop in Kenya
The person was waiting at a dusty intersection where buses and motorcycle taxis crossed in the suburbs of Nairobi, the capital city of East Africa and Kenya. This is Kunihiko Kono (29).
After confirming our car, beckoning "follow me" and get into the back seat of the motorcycle taxi as you get used to. I headed to a commercial facility with many large warehouses. One of the warehouses is his workplace.
As we entered, a lot of red onions were placed in a net on a 600 square meter floor.
Mr. Kono is a wholesaler of onions from Kento in Kenya. We sell large quantities of onions from farmers directly to retailers.
The calm appearance of a young manager is a calm answer to the interview, but when she is interested in something, she quickly shines her eyes and looks like a boy.
Business ideas caught by power
Kono is a mass of action. When I was a student, I decided to become a “social entrepreneur” who can solve the problems in developing countries. After graduating from university, I worked hard at a real estate company to acquire sales know-how.
After gaining experience at venture companies in India and Southeast Asia, I got into Kenya alone with my friend, "I'm Africa from now on". So Kono-san looks at food problems in Africa.
“Because there are big challenges, there are big business opportunities”
That is Kono's belief.
I walked through street stalls selling vegetables on the street and thoroughly examined suppliers, income, and what kind of vegetables they sell. Apparently, I asked a street vendor and sat next to it all day looking at the business.
We hear the locality of vegetables from street vendors and go to rural areas. I realized that there was a story while listening to nearly 100 farmers without any appointments. There were a lot of crops in the farmhouse that rotted without selling.
When I listened to the story, the answer is, “If you want to make it, you can make more crops, but there is no one to buy, so you can make more.”
A closer look revealed that there was a major problem with the distribution system. Kenyan farmers who do not have trucks or other means of transportation sell their crops to middlemen called “brokers”. However, brokers often do not come to buy when the selling price in the market is low, or they often want to buy unreasonably cheaply from farmers.
This may have led to anxiety among farmers that “it may not be sold even if they are made in large numbers”, and they have taken away their willingness to expand fields and buy new farm equipment and fertilizer. Kono can come up with a mechanism there.
“I will buy everything! ! ]
That is the current wholesale system. It is a system that promises farmers to buy the crops made at reasonable prices and sells them directly to retailers without going through the existing wholesale market. First, I decided to start with an onion that is an essential vegetable every day on the Kenyan table and is easy to preserve.
During our interview, when Mr. Kono proposed this mechanism to the farmer, the farmer's man was talking with excitement, "If you buy it, we will make an onion for you." If there is a promise to buy it, the farmer will be much easier to plan and fund the next cultivation.
In fact, some farmers have increased onion cultivation by dealing with Mr. Kono. Farmers who grow vegetables in the highlands about an hour from Nairobi are dealing with Mr. Kono from Ototoshi. Mr. Kono promised to purchase more than 10 tons at a time, and in the last two years, we decided to expand the cultivation area of onions by five times.
According to UN data, 60% of the land that is suitable for agriculture in the world but not yet cultivated is on the African continent. In fact, nomads are used in various ways, such as as a livestock feeding ground.
However, if we look at the current situation of small-scale farmers in Africa, who still plow and hold plows in their hands and remove weeds one by one, I felt strongly that productivity could be increased by introducing mechanization and fertilizer. I think that the approach of bringing out the motivation of farmers to “make more” by making the distribution system more efficient, rather than providing an efficient cultivation method and irrigation equipment, is very unique. It was.
Make full use of IT
Mr. Kono is making full use of mobile phones and smartphones that are exploding in Kenya to keep up with the motivated farmers.
At Mr. Kono's office, the staff are always on the computer and making phone calls throughout the day. This is to check the farming situation and create a database.
Mr. Kono is currently connected to about 800 farmers, and far away from Tanzania. By sending photos through SNS, we understand the quality of onions.
Going forward in developing new customers!
It is also a series of trials and errors to cultivate customers who sell purchased onions.
Until now, several tens of kilometers were delivered directly to street vendors on the street, but gradually there are some leaders in the street vendors who have a habit of distributing goods to small street vendors. I understand.
Therefore, we are now switching to large-scale street vendors as the main target and selling 2 tons and 3 tons of onions at a time. In addition, we have gradually succeeded in acquiring large customers such as major supermarkets.
If there is no stable sales destination, it cannot be purchased regularly from farmers. Meetings were held every day in the office with the aim of expanding sales channels. Kono attaches great importance to having employees thoroughly discuss at meetings.
The day we visited for the interview was held for nearly three hours. Although it takes time, I believe that by doing so, each employee can recognize the issues and deepen their understanding of what to do next. Employee trust is strong in these styles, and the female employees who worked together from the start-up said, "Learning much from him."
Mr. Kono hopes that employees will gain experience here and start their own businesses.
Dream is Africa's largest food comprehensive company
In April, Japanese employees also joined for the first time. Mr. Midori Fukihara, 25 years old. Originally I got a job offer from a Japanese company, but I moved to Kenya because I came to Kono's company as an intern.
He was actively engaged in price negotiations with retailers and discussions with the staff, and seemed to be desperately learning how to create a business that would help locals, sometimes having trouble.
Mr. Kono talks enthusiastically, gradually increasing the number of friends and getting the business on track.
“(Mr. Kawano) I want to grow into a company that can solve food problems in Africa in the future while involving various organizations and people.”
Agriculture and food issues are important themes that will affect Africa's future economic growth. From August 28th, the TICAD = African Development Conference will be held in Yokohama, where food production is expected to be taken up as one of the pillars of support from Japan.
I would like to expect the government-led support to spread rice cultivation and other cultivation techniques, and to expand the movement to solve this problem with the power of business.
International Department reporter Yuko Kobayashi
Entered in 2004 Hiroshima Station, International Department, Cairo Branch etc.
In charge of Middle East and Africa from summer 2018