Africa has great potential to climb many value chains and create thousands of new jobs. It is time to test a new approach to realising this potential.
Why is it that Tanzania exports raw cashew nuts and imports processed cashew nuts, the ones they actually sell in stores? And why does Senegal's largest juice processor import mango pulp, when mangos are rotting by the tonne a few miles down the road? Processing raw materials into market-ready products would create more jobs, capture more value locally, and reduce the tremendous post-harvest losses affecting farmers and traders.
Many attempts at converting raw materials that are in abundant supply into consumer products have gone wrong. Africa has many examples of so-called 'White Elephants' - expensive factories that have never been fully operational because the business concept was flawed. A recent study by the World Bank reports that 60 percent of 87 failed agribusiness projects reviewed were brought down due to a flawed business case. The fact that you have a tomato surplus does not mean you can enter the ketchup market.