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Nigerian entrepreneur blazing a trail in agribusiness

Nigerian entrepreneur blazing a trail in agribusiness

Nigeria

At a factory in Nigeria’s capital, Lagos workers are packaging dried fruits for sale. Reel Fruits processes and packs various fruits which are later sold to Nigerians who want to have healthy snacks.

After working for a small business incubator in South Africa, Affiong Williams returned to Nigeria to set up the snack and beverage company.

Launched in 2012, with an initial investment of 100,000 US dollars, Afiong’s business has grown to employ 17 people.

I believe there is untapped opportunity in processing and value addition of raw materials and I also believe it's a budding sector

Using personal funds as well as loans from family and friends, she started out running the business from her home. The 29-year-old currently is now based at a factory in Lagos.

She says she saw a gap in the market and decided to capitalise on the opportunity.

“Well, I was actually attracted to the sector for a number of reasons. Firstly I believe there is untapped opportunity in processing and value addition of raw materials and I also believe it’s a very budding sector, there is a lot of opportunity as well as the job creation which I think is quite important to me as an entrepreneur to be able to you know play in an industry that would create a lot of jobs,” Affiong said.

Although the fruits are dried in Ogun state, Reel Fruits packages the fruits in the capital and distributes the products to various stores across the country.

The company exports some of its produce to West African countries and plans to export to Europe and the United States in future. They are also working on plans to find a 600,000 U.S. dollar investment to build a bigger plant in 2016 that will see them grow, their own fresh fruits.

Affiong says getting into the business was challenging at first.

“It was not easy introducing something new into the market such as dried fruits. The market has taken a while to accept it but I think you know we’re getting to the stage where people like the products and want more of them and are buying more of it and so that has just necessitated our growth. We do have big ambitions to scale into a world class factory that allows us to also export some of our dried fruits so that’s our next big goal as a company and we are really seeking investment for it and you know it’s all part of, sort of our ambitions to really be a large fruit processing player in Nigeria,” she added.

The company has a range of 5 products which includes mango, pineapple, cashew, banana and coconut with prices ranging from 150 to 400 naira (75 cents to 2 U.S. dollars).

Affiong says Nigeria needs to address structural issues in the agricultural sector in order for agribusinesses to thrive.

“I think agriculture, the sector primarily is obviously more complicated than people anticipate. I think there are so many issues with the, sort of structural issue with the sector so for any sort of I think success, it will take a lot of planning and understanding and also a lot of technical understanding which I think is one of the big missing pieces even from farming all the way to processing. There are certain standards, there are certain methodology that need to be used to arrive at you know a very good product,” she said.

One of the stores in Lagos that sells Reel Fruits is ‘So Fresh Neighbourhood Market’ a company that deals in fresh fruits.

Olagoke Balogun is the store’s founder.

“We started selling Reel fruits about probably 2, 3 years ago and it was a very easy decision for us. Immediately I saw the product, I knew this was going to be a hit with our customers. Customers love Reel fruits because it’s a very you know easy and healthy alternative to snacking for them,” Balogun said.

Affiong Williams is looking to make Reel Fruits a big player in the agribusiness at a time when the government is encouraging investment in agriculture in the country to boost the sector and reduce reliance on oil exports at a time of low crude prices.

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