Nathalie Kpanté : “If I had the power to change things, I would start with Togo’s educational system… Entrepreneurship is taught since childhood”

Agriculture
Tuesday, 20 February 2018 17:03
Nathalie Kpanté : “If I had the power to change things, I would start with Togo’s educational system… Entrepreneurship is taught since childhood”

(Togo First) - Nathalie Kpanté, 30, entrepreneur and production head at Choco-Togo is one of many young Africans trying to change the face of the continent. After training shortly in Italy, the young woman ventured into chocolate production and is now with Choco-Togo, which has become a source of pride for Togo. She has become one of the major actors of local agribusiness. Given her status, we at Togo First decided to ask her a few questions to which she gladly responded.

Togo First: How did you come up with the “made in Togo” chocolate idea?

Nathalie Kpanté : In 2013, we took part in a training workshop in Italy, on traditional processing of cocoa into chocolate, responsible tourism, fair trade and e-commerce. When we returned, we noticed that no processing had been done since the colonial era, and that almost all our cocoa farmers knew nothing about chocolate. We then started researching and adapting processing methods we learnt during the workshop.

T.F : Don’t you think it is too risky to venture into chocolate production knowing that the population, culturally, is not an effective consumer of this product?

Nathalie Kpanté : Indeed, the risk is very high but taking risks is a quality when you are an entrepreneur.

Many people do not know about chocolate’s qualities. All chocolate products in our market are full of chemicals. Therefore, we inform people about chocolate’s qualities and then offer them products of quality.

By venturing into chocolate production, we were trying to achieve two essential goals : first, we wanted to promote agricultural entrepreneurship and self-employment of youths to reduce unemployment rate which is quite elevated in Togo. The second objective was the empowerment of young girls and women in rural areas.

In Togo, cocoa farming is practiced by families therefore all members of a family work but it is men that own the lands and collect revenues generated by the yield. In this context, women totally depend on their husbands. It is to change this that we select women from rural areas and teach them how cocoa processing is done. Currently, we are training about fifty women and dropout girls from these areas.

T.F : Could you tell us a little about the figures of Chocotogo?

Nathalie Kpanté : Since we started our activities, our turnover was about CFA16 million.

T.F : … What of your profits?

We are still installing our factory so every profit we make is used to buy equipment.

T.F : Did you benefit from any financial support?

We won some contests where monies were provided and also funding from the Agriculture Support Programme –PASA- but we have formal financial support.

T.F : Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur when most young graduates seek jobs in a hibernating market ?

I grew up around entrepreneurs. My parents, though civil servants, have always been entrepreneurs, same for my brothers and sisters. Since my childhood I was introduced to various businesses and I learnt there was no such thing as a “dirty job”. Some have to create employment for others to be employed. Why couldn’t this person be me?

T.F : What are your growth targets in the next 10 years?

In regards to growth, we want to expand our production unit, sell its products regionally and internationally, open a training center for all African youths and improve women, girls and kids’ conditions in cocoa farming areas.

T.F : If you had the power to change things today, what would your priorities be?

If I had the power to change things, I would start with Togo’s educational system. We are conditioned as job seekers. Entrepreneurship is taught since childhood. If we want to change things, we must change what we teach kids who are the “nation’s future” as it is often said.

TF : Looking at the multiple awards you got, both in the country, the continent and outside the continent, what advice could you give to your young brothers and sisters who are hesitating to become entrepreneurs ?

Nathalie Kpanté : Let every youth focus on improving their personality and skills. If one knows who he or she is, what we are capable of and are passionate about, then surely he or she can create wealth and have more impact in their society.

Interview with Fiacre Kakpo and Séna Akoda

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