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Patience Chindong is a passionate and committed Communication and Project Management Specialist trained in Cameroon and Netherlands. She obtained a Master’s Degree at WUR in Applied Communication Science, with a minor in Food Technology and Food Law in International Settings. She has work to improve the livelihoods of underprivileged communities and assisting prospective African agribusinesses and students to develop skills and linkages with prospective European investors and educational institutions. Having collaborated and partnered with AIEC, the CEO of EuroAfri Link (EAL),  is confident that Africans will benefit from trade for their produce,  improve access to finance for Agri-development projects.

Here is Patience’s interview with Beetroot Africa. 

  1. What inspired the birth of EuroAfri Link?

Being originally from Cameroon and the first experience I had working on the farms was with my mother Martha Chindong which motivated me to study Management of Development (MoD) at Van Hall Larenstein (VHL) and later apply it to communication science at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) where I began my career path in the agri-sector.

During my university studies, I learned that targeted and effective communication can be a game-changer for low income earners. Becoming information literate can help to uplift farmers and their social position to live a dignified life.

Also, working with some organisations Like MDF, Ede in the Netherlands made me realise the gap in information and knowledge sharing between African agribusinesses and European off takers (buyers) and investors. This is when I was inspired to create EuroAfri Link, a social enterprise that aims to connect European entrepreneurs to African agribusinesses through win-win collaborations.

  1. What role is EuroAfri Link playing on the continent to encourage the growth of entrepreneurship and skills development within African communities?

EuroAfri Link aims to encourage international trade between Africa and Europe that is free, fair, inclusive and sustainable. Our role is to act as facilitators and representatives of on the one hand the client suppliers, supporting them to enter European markets to sell their product, and on the other client buyers, managing the transaction process at all stages.

  1. Agriculture forms a significant portion of the economies of African countries, how has EuroAfri Link contributed to the growth of agricultural markets both in Africa and abroad?

Africa produces more than 80% of the food in the world because of its extremely rich soil and climate conditions. However, due to a lack of information regarding markets and formal transactions, farmers often are excluded from the most profitable market nodes resulting in them having to sell their products at minimum prices. This is where EuroAfri Link can support, paying close attention to the opportunities available to the youth and women farmers.

We not only link but also represent the producer (seller) during negotiations, signing of contracts, marketing strategies and managing the transaction process at all stages. We are committed to building a trusting relationship between the buyer and seller in order that both parties are satisfied.

  1. The African continent has enormous potential, not only to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food security but also to be a major player in the global food markets, what are the limitations to the current food crisis on the continent as identified by EuroAfri Link and what steps need to be taken to maximise the potential?

Indeed, the world sees Africa as the next breadbasket due to its potential to feed the world with healthy and diversified foods taking into account the ever-increasing global population. However, there are some limitations to this theory which include:

  1. Access to finance and markets for smallholder farmers and women in particular and start-ups to boost production is an issue.
  2. Most small-scale farmers do not have the timely and adequate information about funding and the market trend about their products.
  3. Weak political structures, unstable governments and bureaucracies in most African states steer foreign investors away from investment.
  4. The pace in which agricultural technology is adopted by entrepreneurs and small-scale farmers in Africa is limited.

5. What are the current agricultural trends in Africa and how has the agricultural sector evolved in the past decades?  

Agriculture is the backbone of Africa’s livelihood and its population.  Therefore, Africa has the potential to play a huge role in shaping agricultural trends and the related issues such as population growth and feeding the world, climate change, acquiring land rights ownership for women. Understanding the current trend in agriculture for the continent is the way forward. Currently Africa has experienced a shift in agricultural trends that will shape business landscape and its future operations.  For example:

  1. The relationship between Africa and Europe is moving away from aid to trade.
  2. Africa and European investors are still experiencing a modest trade relationship
  • There is a huge improvement in the relationship between Europe-Africa resulting in a soaring export performance of Africa, even though currently, market powers are still controlled by large European retailers.
  1. Africa is increasingly seen as an investment destination rather than a source of raw materials.
  2. The Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped the agriculture sector and trade landscape in Africa and in the world.
  3. As such strengthening the Europe-Africa cooperation in agriculture for a shared vision that would benefit both parties will be an ideal scenario and one that I look forward to.

 

6. What challenges have you faced since the formation of EuroAfri Link in executing your company’s objectives?

I have faced challenges with both farmers and buyers which in some cases, has made achieving goals difficult. With good communication and negotiation, EuroAfri Link has been able to close fair deals with both parties.

For example, farmers will often increase their prices when they are aware of deals with Europe. This is unfortunate as these conditions make it difficult to secure long-term business agreements. Buyers are astute to this and will not engage in negotiations.

Buyers on the other hand are profit-oriented and often do not take into account the intense labour process for farmers when bidding for the product price.  The goal is to secure a fair deal for both parties and therefore, EuroAfri Link is meticulous about the terms and conditions of the contracts.

  1. EuroAfri Link has created a marketplace for African produced products in Europe, what has been the response from Europeans to African produce and is there room for more products from Africa?

To date, the projects managed by EuroAfri Link have had positive outcomes where buyers have shown satisfactions with the sample and final product delivered to them. It is a pleasure to be a part of this process, showcasing the work of the farmers at a global level.

The idea is for farmers to deliver what they promised and for the buyers to pay what was agreed upon. In this way as I said earlier, it establishes trust and everyone is happy.

Whilst there is hunger in the world and an ever-increasing population requiring food, there will always be the need for more products from Africa to feed into the world food markets.  Spices and plants-based protein crops are essential to these developments. My wish is for Africa to lead with such products for expanding African market as well as improving the nutrition on the continent.

  1. What has been EuroAfri Link”s greatest achievements so far?

Indeed, our biggest success story has been in 2020 with the delivery of shea butter from northern Uganda to the Netherlands. We also secured the export of cocoa beans from a smallholder in Cameroon to Estonia for monthly deliveries. This is significant progress for EuroAfri Link.

Another important development has been establishing a partnership with AIEC with whom we are currently engaging in funding projects that have great potential.

  1. As an entrepreneur, what are your personal goals and objectives when it comes to the growth and transformation of the agricultural sector?

My personal goal is to add value to goods and raw materials from Africa so that these can be exported as value-added finished products. That is where the profit lies. Commodity trade alone will not promote growth, we must improve on our manufacturing industry and renewable energy sector especially because Africa has an abundance of sunlight which can be utilised for energy generation.

We must be innovative and creative in finding new ways to doing business.

10.  What advice would you give to Africans who want to venture into Agribusiness?

  • First, business requires taking risks and therefore they must be aware and willing to accept a degree of failure from which lessons can be learned as well as embracing success.
  • Being an entrepreneur require hard work and commitment to succeed. You have to sacrifice a lot of time at the beginning to make it work.
  • Business is all about patience. Do not expect to start harvesting money the next day. It can take months and even years before you start seeing the fruits of your labour.
  • Do research and understand your business concept inside out. Make adjustments if necessary.
  • Partnerships and collaborations will help create visibility and branding of your business.
  • Be very honest and transparent when communicating with customers, colleagues and partners.
  • It is important to have a professional attitude at all times.
  • Finally, be inspired, keep positive and be hungry for success.
  • Make it fun!

 

Visit: http://euroafrilink.com/

Minnie-lee Tagwirei
Minnie-lee Tagwirei
Minnie-lee Tagwirei, is the editor of Beetroot Online Magazine for professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses.

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