The CEO of Twiga Foods, Peter Njonjo, has disclosed that the Kenyan agritech startup is temporarily suspending its expansion plans to West Africa to focus on markets closer to home. Njonjo said this in an interview with Africa Report.
In 2019 when Twiga Foods raised $30 million led by US investment bank, Goldman Sachs, it had plans to use part of the investments in expanding to West Africa and more cities in Kenya.
However, with the lockdown and travel restrictions introduced in various parts of Africa to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Twiga foods had no choice than to temporarily suspend its widely reported West African expansion plans which CEO Njonjo describe as “impractical for the moment’.
“For now, any foreign expansion will focus on countries bordering Kenya. The priority is to scale up in Kenya, with expansion into the country’s third-largest city Kisumu planned in September. That will be followed by entry into “two or three” more Kenyan cities by the end of the year, he adds.
Meanwhile, Twiga Foods plans to seek new funding within the next 18 months Njonjo said. His words: “The company will “definitely need to raise money to expand its footprint. The aim will be to “synchronise” the fundraising with the opening up of African markets once the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Njonjo adds that it has not completely abandoned its West African plans. He says: “The shift in the plan is a short-term change of emphasis. We’re not walking away from our plans to expand across the continent. West Africa remains a “sizeable opportunity” due to its higher rates of urbanisation compared with the east. Expansion is still a priority.
“Africa still has a “$300bn problem to be solved in terms of food access. That remains a constant. The ability to travel is the variable. We want to focus on what is under our control. Wider phone access in Africa, improved networks, and greater 4G penetration will help Twiga to contribute to solving it. The apps that 4G permits will open up more opportunities for digital food transactions.
“The companies that succeed will be those that can adapt to the impact on incomes from the pandemic. Businesses will need to help their clients to “stretch their money further.
“The African Continental Free Trade Agreement will help by providing a “unified framework” for businesses. Yet even now, there are “clusters” in the east and west Africa which are “fairly well integrated,” He concluded.
Twiga Foods was co-founded by Peter Njonjo and Grant Brooke in Nairobi in 2014 and serves around 3,000 outlets a day with produce through a network of 17,000 farmers and 8,000 vendors. Parties can coordinate goods exchanges via mobile app using M-Pesa mobile money for payment.