Entrepreneurs beyond borders #gyin

On Wednesday 12 October, some of the participants of the Youth Conference - Agents of Change visited the pineapple agro-processing facilities of Dieu Donne Alladjodjo, located about 60 kilometres north of Cotonou. We had a rather eventful trip, as half-way to our destination, our convey had an accident.

Thank God, no one was seriously injured. We duly followed all UN security procedures, informed both IFAD and UN security officers. With their respective blessings - and as they say in this part of the world - all protocols observed -  we continued our trip to the world of pineapple processing!

Benin goes proud of its pineapples, as they are  deemed one of the best in the world. In 1998, the annual production was approximately 100 million tonnes. However, the planters were unable to exploit this gold mine because they did not have access to regional and international markets, nor in a position to improve the quality of their products.

This is why a decade or so ago, the pineapple planters got together to explore how they could exploit this great asset and increase their income, improve their livelihoods and provide a better life for their families and communities. As a result, they embarked on a successful processing journey.

Alladjodjo entered into processing business when was 19 years old.  Today he runs a successful business which gives employment to 307 people of which 80% are women and has a total annual income of CFA200 million. The plant is equipped with the “en norme” equipment meeting international standards, and has the capacity to process up to 80 tonnes of pineapple a day.

“We buy traditional and organic pineapples from individual farmers, farmer associations and cooperatives operating in Mono, Zou, Ouémé and Atlantique region”, explainedAlladjodjo. “When we embarked on this journey we realized that while the pineapple industry was a gold mine, however, we were faced with the challenge of having access to good inputs, thus being able to produce good quality final product.”

That is how they engaged with the IFAD-funded Rural Economic Growth Support Project which helped them get access to good inputs such as fertilizer and built their capacity to develop rural agro-based micro and small enterprises.

Today, Alladjodjo sells canned pineapple juice wholesale at local, national and regional level. "I sell 3000 boxes of pineapple juice for a total of CFA15,000,000", explains Alladjodjo,

This young man’s story inspired and flared the entrepreneur spirit of the young Africans, Latin Americans, Egyptian, Syrian and Yemeni participants in the group who saw Alladjodjo experience as  great import-export opportunity. It was amazing to see how business cards were exchanged and hear the questions and clarifications about import-export legal framework.

Ebtesam saw a new business opportunity for her grocery store and  Mohamed, our fashion designer, seriously started considering entering into pineapple import-export business.

What we witnessed on this hot and humid day in Allada was visionary entrepreneurs connecting with and learning from each other.  Definitely, this field trip is the beginning of many future global business opportunities.

Let’s hope next time you are in Yemen or Syria you'll be able to drink Alladjodjo’s pineapple juice and that let's hope that Alladjodjo's achievements inspire many more young entrepreneurs and help improve many more lives.