Frankfurt (Germany) and Nairobi (Kenya), May 2021. GreenTec Capital’s Vice President of Growth, Andrew Gwadiva participated in Africa Tea Week this past May by joining a panel hosted by Trastea titled ‘Tea and Fair Trade.’ Appropriately, Andrew’s session on innovation and investment in the African tea industry fell on International Tea Day, May 21, 2021.
Africa Tea Week is a celebration of the African tea industry, highlighting the importance of tea and its contributions to Africa’s economy. The event was organized by Trastea, a Kenyan digital marketplace for farmers to sell bulk produce without the cost of middlemen. Ms. Helen Wair agu of Trastea hosted and opened the webinar by making clear the importance of tea to Africa . “Tea is the most popular drink in the world after water. The African tea industry is valued at $4.7B.”
Helen quickly shared the event’s objectives: educating all stakeholders, empowering smallholder farmers, engaging the public, and supporting the tea industry. She introduced the two panelists and engaged the panelists in interesting discussions.
Andrew said “The current trend I am seeing is that young farmers are using technology to solve challenges across the entire tea value chain. It’s no longer just about primary agriculture. They are also addressing their logistics, marketing, and branding strategies.”
From Farm to Plate
Andrew referred to the challenge of getting produce “…from farm to plate.” He suggested technology is enabling smallholder farmers to collaborate to create efficiencies to address current and future food scarcity while simultaneously garnering higher profits for the farmers.
Talk to Potential Customers
Andrew was asked what he would recommend for founders who need financial support. He took a step back and said, “Before founders dive into the venture capital world, private equity world…they need to talk to their potential customers to learn if they will buy the product or service.” He suggested that tapping into the “friends and family” investor network is popular and often critical to eventually getting professional, financial support.
“Taking this route shows that you have investors who have confidence in you, and others will see that as validation of your business.”
Are You a Tea Person?
Helen asked the two panelists “Are you tea people?” Andrew, who had been sipping on his tea since the start of the webinar, said “I have my tea with me.” He introduced his favorite tees, WANGU and KOECH, by showing the boxes. He then offered his personal experience of the local tea market. “One of the things I am always thinking about is how I can support young founders. Specifically, regarding tea, it’s hard for me to identify the different teas, where they are coming from, and where I can buy them.”
More Information Needed
Andrew continued to focus on a lack of information in the tea value chain by saying, “Farmers often don’t know where their teas are eventually sold…who the consumers are.” He spoke of a project he did in Uganda and said “Farmers are very interested in knowing where their produce is going, and connecting farmers to the later part of the value chain is very important to them.”
Andrew shared that “Kenya is the largest producer of tee after China and India. And Mombasa has the second largest tea auction center in the world.” He added that “Kenyan tea is lively and refreshing…and has the best color.”
Africa has a lot of Opportunities, especially in Agriculture
The panelists were asked to share their thoughts at the end of the webinar, and Andrew said “Africa has a lot of opportunities especially when it comes to agriculture. There is huge value in the entire value chain.” He ended by stating what venture builders and investors, such as he, need to do. “We need to help young farmers innovate beyond the traditional norms.”