In Cote d’Ivoire, Master’s Degree Holder Lives on Exporting Coconut to France

In Côte d’Ivoire, there is a master’s degree holder whose means of livelihood is exporting coconut to France. His story is quite an inspiring one. Please, enjoy it.

After Mohamed Diaby, who hails from Côte d’Ivoire, got his master’s degree in international trade in France, he started a business because he needed a place to intern.

He and his business partner, Ybrahim Traoré, were keen on promoting the export of African agricultural produce but they soon found that the supply chain in Europe was controlled by agents from everywhere except Africa.

As they couldn’t find a company focused on African-origin food commodities where they could earn their college credits, they started their own company, Zatwa, in June 2014.

Their list of possible commodities for export was whittled down to fruits and vegetables, specifically coconuts.

Diaby and Traoré didn’t have a supply chain and were still in France, but they hit the ground running and secured two containers of coconuts in Côte d’Ivoire on their first day.

Shortly after shipping those first containers, they headed back to Côte d’Ivoire to establish the business.

Their biggest challenge was the logistics of moving a commodity across borders into another country and understanding the players involved; from the farmers to the middlemen and buyers.

”There are many steps in the process and each requires documentation. Local farmers do not work on credit, especially with those new to the market. Also, because one farmer cannot deliver the quantity to fill a container, a middle man gathers the crops to make up the volume.

They are unable to finance the operation on credit. We had to pay them upfront to secure the raw material,” explains Diaby.

Diaby emphasizes the need to understand the product, from sourcing and storage to transportation and documentation. “Take time with every decision and have all the necessary information before you put any money in.

“Today, 90% of Zatwa’s volumes comprise fresh coconuts. The company is one of the top five exporters of coconuts in Côte d’Ivoire, shipping 20 containers each month to around 15 countries.

 

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