African gastronomy is popular. This is evidenced by the large public at the Parisian culinary festival Food Temple Africa dedicated this year to the culinary arts of the continent. From September 25 to 27, gastronomy enthusiasts or simply curious crowded, masked, in the alleys of the Carreau du Temple, setting of the event. Cooking classes and master classes were sold out. The farmers ‘and artisans’ market has also found its audience. The proof: the stall of the specialized grocery store Mon Kadi is largely sparse at the end of the afternoon. If the craze for African products is no longer to be proven, is the enormous economic potential that they represent nonetheless fully exploited?
“Africa has a gold mine. The problem is that few people know it, laments Aïssata Diakité, founder of Zabaan, a company that markets fruit juices. This is true for Europe, where we do not find African products on the shelves of supermarkets, as for Africa, where we only consume imported products ”. An observation shared by chef Christian Abégan, guest of the round table “Africa, fertile land (s)” organized in parallel to the event. “In Africa, we have millet, fonio, cowpea… and we only eat imported wheat”, he laments.
Read also: Christian Abégan: “African cuisine does have a place to take”
A wealth of diverse jobs
For Aïssata Diakité, there is a “real challenge to take up”. The young woman, born in the region of Mopti in Mali, took him head on in 2012. And this, despite the pessimism of those around her and the hostility of the banks. Today, Zabaan covers 25 sectors and works with 2,500 farms in the country and 10,000 producers. The Moriba Saveurs d’Afrique grocery store, based in Strasbourg, also started in 1996 with the sale of fruit juices from the continent. Since then, the brand has been enriched with other products – oils, spices, herbal teas – by forging partnerships with cooperatives that supply raw materials in Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso.
On the production side, only the jams are made on site, in Africa. But the medium-term objective is to produce the whole range on the continent. “The best is obviously to transform the products on site,” says the founder of Zabaan. Because each stage of the transformation is a vector of employment. “In view of the millions of young people who enter the labor market in Africa each year, the potential for African gastronomy is great. Large-scale job creation is also an imperative in the program of the African Development Bank (AfDB), which intends to create 25 million jobs and train 32 million young people by 2025.
Read also: African gastronomy comes out the big game
To transform the trial, Africa has many assets. “Today, consumers want quality products without chemical fertilizers. We also want to give a social meaning to our consumption, and to know who produces what. The continent is quite capable and must even take advantage of the current trend, ”suggests Hervé Bourguignon, manager of the Moringa investment fund. Promoting local, healthy and reasoned agriculture is a niche with great potential for the continent, which Aïssata Diakité has already integrated into her development plan. “About twenty of our sectors are in the process of organic certification”, she reveals. These names will soon concern fruit juices, jams and herbal teas of his brand. An approach in which the Racines grocery store, established in France, Benin, Madagascar and Senegal, is also committed since 2010. The company has embarked on fair trade through the Fair for Life certificate (FFL ). Five sectors are currently concerned: plantain, turmeric, hibiscus, cassava and sweet potato.
Read also: Fernaud Koffi: “Focus on organic, local cocoa and more processing”
A market whose parameters must be integrated
While opportunities are not lacking, several obstacles prevent the market from developing on a large scale. First obstacle, familiar to any entrepreneur: the reluctance of investors, especially banks. “It is true that it still blocks, recognizes Hervé Bourguignon. But we see more and more investment in the sector, from people who accept to earn very little money at the beginning. Investing in the primary is long term financing. “
For Aïssata Diakité, on the other hand, the ongoing political instability in several countries of the continent is not an obstacle to the development of the sector. “Of course, it’s a risk that you have to study and integrate into your business plan,” she admits. But there is a real gap between what is happening at the level of institutions and the daily life of the population. In Mali, two days after the August coup, people went back to work. Life goes on for them. “
Global warming, on the other hand, could well undermine a market, admittedly with high potential but still very fragile. “Desertification and the changes of seasons are really worrying for the agriculture of the continent, worries Hervé Bourguignon. East Africa will lose a lot this year with the swarms of locusts, coupled with the devastating floods that followed. More than political instability, climate change threatens the entire value chain of African gastronomy. “
Read also African gastronomy: the keys to becoming a (good) chef