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Business News of Tuesday, 22 February 2022


African countries should be focused on local production and processing – Anthony Owei

Founder of Chicken Palace & Anthony Owei Founder of Chicken Palace & Anthony Owei

Anthony Owei is a Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of Tonyve Farms, and Chicken Palace Chicken Palace.

Tonyve Farms is an agricultural enterprise inspired by the 2011/2012 East African drought. Tonyve Farms was rated one of the top 30 SMEs in Africa in 2018 by the African Entrepreneurship Awards, Morocco.

Could you tell us about your organization?

We currently operate four businesses in the agriculture space and specifically in the poultry value chain in Nigeria producing and selling chicken meats and eggs, offering alternative investment opportunities into the poultry value chain as well as agribusiness education.

They are Tonyve Farms, ePoultry.NG, Chicken Palace and an Agribusiness Academy.

How do these four establishments operate?

All four businesses compliment one another in our goal of creating wealth and jobs in Africa using agriculture as our vehicle. Our first business, Tonyve Farms, was founded September 1, 2014. It is the production and processing arm of the business with three farm facilities located in Bayelsa and Rivers States of Nigeria with a combined production capacity of over 55,000 birds.

In February 2019, we founded ePoultry.NG, a digital platform which solves the challenges of access to market, finance and skills for smallholder farmers. It also democratizes funding into the poultry value chain. With this platform, anyone anywhere in the world can farm chickens from the comfort of their mobile phones and make profit. Our third business started September 2020 immediately after the lockdown was eased in Nigeria.

It is an online and a chain of physical retail stores that sell chicken meat and eggs. With this outfit we work with several farmers across several states in Nigeria by helping them sell profitably while they focus on raising the birds.

Our fourth subsidiary is a digital education platform that offers several agribusiness and entrepreneurial practical trainings that enable individuals and investors create wealth through agriculture. We are currently headquartered in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.

Would it be safe to assume that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the work-from-home trend has not affected your operations?

Yes, it would. During the lockdown, we were granted exemptions to move as part of an essential industry. Food production went on and it was during this time that we were inspired to start Chicken Palace. We started with online orders and home delivery and then followed it up with a physical outlet in September 2020.

What is your organization’s growth strategy for 2022?

Our growth strategy in 2022 is simply to scale our operations to serve more customers.

We believe in mergers, acquisitions and partnerships. Our goal is to increase our production and processing capacities by building and commissioning a new facility which is now in progress, increase the number of our retail stores to serve more customers and consumers of our chicken products and also sign on new partners as we spread across the continent.

Within the next 2 to 3 years we should have our footprints in Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi. Others will follow shortly after so we welcome local partners in those regions looking to collaborate meaningfully.

What can be done to improve the Agribusiness sector in Africa?

I have been privileged to travel across Africa; I was educated in and have traveled across East Africa. I’ve also been to several countries in West and Southern Africa.

It is my observation that African challenges are very similar even though solutions would be narrowed to the economies of specific nations. One unanimous solution is to reduce reliance on imports and stimulate local production and processing.

We must strengthen logistics and the distribution chain with our retail and online stores, helping to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers as well as providing alternative investment options for middle income earners. It is a tested and trusted wealth creation model that would work across Africa.

What government policies can be implemented for companies to thrive in Nigeria?

Generally, governments are not meant to create jobs but stimulate growth of businesses to create those jobs. Speaking at the RUFORUM (a network of over 146 African Universities from 38 African Countries) Triennial Conference in Benin in December 2021, I stated that the only way to create wealth and jobs on the continent is through entrepreneurship and closing the skills gap.

Businesses have to be supported to thrive so they can create jobs and wealth for investors. Policies on the part of the government should be consistent and participatory. Entrepreneurs should be asked to collaborate with policy drafters in order to ensure that while investors and consumers are protected, it should not be at the detriment of small businesses.

Regulatory agencies should also be digitized and automated to make their services more efficient and accessible and their responses less delayed.

Which 3 African countries perform best in terms of business in 2022?

I think countries like Rwanda top this list. I have read a lot about the country and also have friends who talk about the ease of doing business and the registration that has been automated. I’ll also place bets on Ghana and Kenya.

How will Africa develop as a knowledge economy in 2022 and how can companies contribute?

The knowledge economy is a system of consumption and production that is based on intellectual capital. There cannot be innovation without funding. For instance, our universities should be a source of groundbreaking research that those of us in industry and the private sector can commercialize to create wealth and jobs for our countries.

As a key player in the agribusiness space, agricultural research for example should incorporate the farmers on the field, private sector, non-profit, government and academics. Research and Innovation need heavy funding. All stakeholders must be committed to this. African governments can also make better policy choices with sound research.

Above all, the educational curriculum should be reviewed in a way that employers of labour can tell trainers what skill sets they need and the best way to approach learning. You cannot compete in a knowledge economy without the right and new knowledge.

What are the opportunities for Agribusiness and Agritech in Africa in 2022?

Enormous opportunities. Our agriculture is still at the beginning stage. More money and jobs are however not in the primary production stage but at the level of processing, industrialization and technology. There are also several stages in the value chain that investors and entrepreneurs can also focus on. For instance in the poultry industry, movement of day-old chicks across the country
is still not done properly.

Anyone who can move those very beautiful creatures in a vehicle that is conducive for them would be in good business. In Nigeria, we still import powdered eggs in billions of Naira annually. Industry and Technology should be our focus to unlock jobs and wealth through agriculture on the continent.

Agritech is also very crucial. AI, Robotics, IoT, Blockchain and other inventions have immense potential to change the face of food production and accessibility on the continent.