MEET THE FOUNDER DRIVING AN AFRICAN AGRITECH REVOLUTION
How A Kenyan Innovator is Disrupting Food Distribution-By Drive Africa Writer
When Peter Njonjo and Grant Brooke decided to make their foray into business in Africa, they looked to the fruit and vegetables market. In particular, they sought to build their first venture marketing bananas by selling them to informal markets in Kenya. For Njonjo’s part, his main drive was the quest to find a solution to high prices and solve the problem of food waste that he had witnessed in Kenya. Njonjo, who had worked for decades in the corporate world at the Coca Cola Company had always sought to build a business which would make a difference. Njonjo serves as Twiga Food’s Chief Executive Officer and its cofounder. He holds an MBA in Strategic Management and BA in International Business from the United States International University in Kenya. He is also a Certified Public Accountant and also an alum of the Executive Leadership Program from the Harvard Business School. Njonjo is a 21 year veteran of the Coca Cola Company where he served as the President of the West and Central Africa Region prior to setting up Twiga Foods.
As Njonjo and Brooke began their venture they were introduced to the market failures as well as the opportunities within Kenya’s food and agricultural markets. They found a highly fragmented ecosystem which was fraught with inefficiencies and one which disadvantaged the millions of small scale farmers who undergirded the food systems in the country. Njonjo and Brooke sought a technology based solution to the problem and built a platform which could provide farmers access to a ready marketplace for their produce without having to rely on networks of middlemen. That platform became Twiga Food which was founded in 2014. The platform aggregates produce from small scale farmers and distributes it to vendors, mostly small scale, across the country. The company has grown to become an agritech company with a business to business food distribution model oriented toward supporting small scale farmers.
The platform has an inbuilt app which allows vendors to order fruits and vegetables which Twiga Foods distributes to the vendors. Transactions through the platform are facilitated using M-Pesa, Kenya’s ubiquitous mobile money service. The company has built an integrated marketplace which has over 16,000 farmers and 40,000 vendors. The success and value chain impact of the company caught the attention of investors. In 2017 the company secured a $10.3 million Series A funding round and a follow on funding round of $10million in 2018. Twiga Foods has raised over $50 million from investors such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Goldman Sachs making it one of the best funded startups on the African continent. The company’s support from the IFC included financing through the IFC’s Global SME Finance Facility which went towards the support of over 300 medium scale contract farmers who are a complement to the company’s small holder farmer suppliers. As most of the contract farmers under the facility are involved in irrigation farming, this will enable the company to provide year round supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In its bid to for its continued expansion, the company has indicated that it will need additional capital. The company’s initial fundraising efforts were geared towards growing its African foot print. The onset of the COVID 19 has gotten the company to reset its expansion plans with a focus on driving growth within Kenyan cities as a short term strategy. Njonjo sees West Africa as an exciting opportunity given its demographics and high rates of urbanization. He also has eyes on the rest of the continent which he believes will become an even bigger business prospect with the onset of continental integration as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement becomes a reality.