Belgian entrepreneurs financially back pre-cooked beans in Tanzania

Belgian entrepreneurs financially back pre-cooked beans in Tanzania

in News

Boosting the pre-cooked beans business

Thanks to a loan from the Belgian association Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs (OVO), entrepreneur Leonard Shayo can kickstart the production of pre-cooked beans in Tanzania. “It’s fantastic to assist in supporting a project like this”, explains Hugo Van de Voorde, the volunteer who prepared the investment for OVO.

With a loan of €50,000, Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs (OVO) has completed its financing to TTi Pre-cooked Beans. TTi is a Tanzanian start-up that prepares pre-cooked beans through a special process that is environmentally friendly and conserves the nutritional value of the beans better. The financing comes from a number of business angels who volunteer at OVO as well as from the Acceleration Fund. This fund is set up by OVO in cooperation with the King Baudouin Foundation to support the growth of African businesses. Now that the financing is concluded, Leonard Shayo can achieve his business goals, since the loan enables Shayo to invest in a vacuum system to cook the beans.

SusTech4Africa – Where it all started

The story actually starts in Kampala, Uganda’s buzzing capital, where TTi Pre-cooked Beans took part in SusTech4Africa. Organised by OVO in Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal and for the African diaspora, SusTech4Africa is a competition for starting and growing companies that use sustainable technologies. During the boostcamp, participants take part in trainings and get questioned about their business model and financial planning by a team of volunteers existing of experienced entrepreneurs and students. Entrepreneurs who pass the boostcamp, receive intensive coaching and a prospect for a loan.

“Shayo flew from Tanzania to Uganda specifically for this event”, remembers entrepreneur Hugo Van de Voorde. “The project was still in its starting phase back then, but he was an already experienced business leader. Shayo had started and expanded a backery with three to four branches before selling it. You immediately noticed he had experience.”

As OVO’s lead screener, Van de Voorde get his hands on TTi’s project file. “Shayo’s project was very detailed. He could already present a complete business and financial plan. Of course, we still discussed a lot about the details, but what was important to me is that he was very open to our ideas and suggestions for improvements.”

Refining the plans

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, which has also paralysed African economies, the project has been delayed, but by now the construction of the production site has started. “On the technical level, we helped with the design of the site, by for instance making suggestions regarding food safety. We also joined the thought process to hash out how to organise everything in the best way possible”, explains Van de Voorde, who has been a consultant and business owner himself in the horticulture sector.

“Our main role was to challenge Shayo and share our experience. In this way, the human resources plan, kick off timing and financial plan were improved”, summarises lead screener Van de Voorde. After a positive evaluation by the screening team, the project is proposed to the lenders to receive funding.

Widespread benefits of pre-cooked beans

Shayo buys the beans from 800 local farmers from two cooperatives supported by Rikolto, and international NGO. “The farmers growing brown beans benefit from a long-term cooperation with a buyer that offers a good and stable price. It enables them to invest in quality improvement and sustainable agricultural practices”, describes David Leyssens, the Regional Director of Rikolto in East Africa.

The local farmers are not the only ones benefitting from this project. Pre-cooked beans themselves have a broader impact. Leyssens elaborates: “Beans are a good protein alternative for meat, which is often too expensive. Pre-cooked beans are also environmentally interesting. On a traditional charcoal fire, it takes hours for the beans to be cooked and the deforestation linked to charcoal production causes a lot of damage to the environment. An industrial process reduces this impact.”

Boosting Shayo’s business with access to finance

Rikolto connected Shayo with OVO, which led to him flying off to Kampala. “The boostcamp provided Shayo with the right tools to get his business model and numbers on point”, believes Leyssens. “And the business loan is of course the cherry on the cake. It is extremely difficult to find capital and often it’s only available at very high rates. I rarely see rates below 20%. An affordable loan therefore makes the difference between realising a dram or not.”

OVO provides loans up to €50,000 euro at a 7% rate. Leyssens elaborates: “Many financial actors are looking at investing in East Africa, but they are often only looking at big projects. What’s lacking is financing for medium sized projects, that are too small for big investors and too big for microfinancing. This is exactly what OVO does.”

This cooperation between OVO and Rikolto is just the start.

“We’re looking at this as a successful pilot project. The idea is to send other entrepreneurs – whom we think offer a fair partnership to farmers – to similar events as SusTech4Africa. Big donors often ask NGOs to work closer together, and while this often stays a theory, we pulled this off in practise in this project.”

David Leyssens Regional Director Rikolto in East Africa

Empowering entrepreneurs with dreams

OVO-volunteer Hugo Van de Voorde looks back at his involvement in this project: “I was an entrepreneur myself. I remember how it feels to be 22 years old and on the search for money search. I know the importance of finally getting a chance to achieve what you’re dreaming of. It’s fantastic to help develop a project like this.”

“I warmly recommend this to other experienced entrepreneurs”, Van de Voorde concludes. “You obviously dedicate a lot of time to it, I won’t lie about that, but it’s rewarding to see someone getting the chance to grow. You know, I firmly believe in entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is in my eyes the way to a sustainable future.”

Original version in Dutch written by Jasper Vekeman
Translated to English and edited by Ine Tollenaers