More than double your turnover in four years and employ seven times as many employees. You just have to do it. EA Fruits was able to count on financing via OVO in 2015, much needed to get the business going. Perseverance and passion for the profession did the rest.There is no shortage of fruit and vegetables in Tanzania. The climate and soil lend themselves to horticulture. Nevertheless, the country is still dependent on imports for a large part of its food supply. The cause? The products are difficult to get from the countryside to the cities. Because they are sometimes on the road for up to a week, there is a great loss of quality. And the many middlemen all claim part of the cake, leaving little yield for the farmer himself.
EA Fruits pleads for short chain
Elia Timotheo, a young local entrepreneur, decided in 2013 that things could and should be done differently. With EA Fruits, he is the only link between 1680 farmers and more than 800 end customers in the capital Dar es Salaam. His company transports the fruit and vegetables in refrigerated lorries so that they arrive squatted at the traders and restaurants.
"EA Fruits' success story would never have been possible without that first flexible loan from OVO". Elia Timotheo of EA Fruits
By shortening the chain, farmers save on average 30% more on their production than before. Moreover, thanks to their agreement with EA Fruits, they are assured of a fixed market. As a result, they have a higher and stable income, which also allows them to give their families prospects for the future.
"The success story that EA Fruits is today would never have been possible without that first flexible loan from OVO," says Elia Timotheo. "She was an important catalyst to guide us as a young company through those first difficult steps. Because our investors believed in us and were willing to take the risk, we were able to grow into a stable company".
One of those investors from the very beginning was Hugo Van de Voorde, active as project screener at OVO in the 'Team Investments'. Together with a number of other private individuals, he invested in EA Fruits through an initial capital round worth 65,000 US dollars.
"It was a promising project of a young starter," he remembers. "I myself was once active in the horticultural sector and had my own business. So, I know how difficult it can be to find funding for your project. I am also convinced that the solutions to certain problems in Africa must come from local entrepreneurship. What Elia Timotheo did was pioneering work in Africa. Today, we would call his business model disruptive."
"In the future, we want to collaborate with more than 10,000 farmers and 15,000 end customers".
Elia Timotheo of EA Fruits
Moreover, the Tanzanian entrepreneur could not only count on OVO for financing. The strength of the organization is that it also helps African companies with potential to be strategically on the right track. Timotheo: "Based on his own experiences, Hugo shared a lot of knowledge and insights with us that benefited the growth of EA Fruits. That too has been invaluable".
Meanwhile, EA Fruits has outgrown its starter status. The company employs 44 people and generated a net profit of over US$ 76,000 in 2019. A new capital round of 1.6 million US dollars through the Impact Fund Good Well Investments, among others, prepares the company for a strong expansion of the organization and activities.
"In the future we want to work with more than 10,000 farmers and 15,000 end customers in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and neighboring regions," Timotheo explains his ambitions. "In addition, we will invest in digitization. There will be regional 'collection centers' where a representative will maintain contact with local farmers and digitally record the expected production. Vendors will then go out with a tablet to conclude sales orders".
"What EA Fruits did was pioneering work in Africa."
Investor Hugo Van de Voorde
By continuing to grow and generate stable incomes for farmers and small businesses, EA Fruits hopes to pave the way for them, too, to various forms of services such as micro-loans, insurance and information. In this way, the company contributes to the sustainable development of an entire region. Catchy, isn't it?
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Text: Anja De Wit