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Aspuna is breaking down barriers for African cassava farmers

Aspuna cassava nursery in cooperation with the National Agricultural Research Institute

Although cassava is an important part of the diet for 800 million people in Africa, shortage of equipment for processing has meant production has been unable to increase. To meet this need a social impact business, Aspuna Group is developing a cassava processing facility in The Gambia, to convert the raw material into starch and to reduce unemployment.

The company will be discussing its learning points at Agri-Tech East’s ‘Exporting Agri-Tech to Sub-Saharan Africa’ event on 12 July 2017, geared towards businesses developing innovations in the mature UK and US markets, now looking to explore the Sub-Saharan market.

While Cassava can be eaten in its tuber form, it is highly perishable, making it impossible to transport over long distances. To make use of its versatility as a food and industrial product, cassava needs to be processed into starch and flour, increasing shelf life from barely 24 hours to up to 2 years.

Access to domestic and world markets

Apuna team with technical MoU Partner National Agricultural Research Institute

Apuna team with technical MoU Partner ‘National Agricultural Research Institute’

Maria-Yassin Jah, CEO of Aspuna Group, says that the company’s business model will help it overcome this problem: “We are currently building a 2,000 m2 factory to process fresh cassava into cassava starch, internationally known as tapioca.

“Aspuna Group’s social impact business model means that we are providing the country’s small holder farmers with access to both a domestic market and the world markets.

“Our processing activities will provide employment and training opportunities for Gambia’s rural youth, which has an unemployment rate of close to 40%.”

As the smallest country on the African mainland, Maria-Yassin believes that The Gambia works to their advantage; logistics are not as challenging, and the relatively good road infrastructure reduces transportation time from the factory to the port.

Aspuna gained support from the Judge Business School in Cambridge, and plans to set up a network of subsidiaries with links to markets in Europe and the United States. Research has also been carried out to assess Nigeria and Portugal as possible next locations.

Sub-Saharan opportunities

At the upcoming event, Aspuna will be joined by other entrepreneurs operating in the Sub-Saharan market and representatives from the UK Department for International Trade.

“We have a great line-up for this event, all offering first-hand advice on the Sub-Saharan market,” says Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East. “Whether you would like to establish an initial foothold, grow overseas business activities or just to learn about a potential market opportunity, you are welcome to come along.”

For further information and registration details, please click here.