Introducing Africa’s gourmet Chocolate

28th April 2015 A small factory in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital might just be the birthplace of Africa’s niche chocolate market.

Naheed Ahmed is a chocolatier with a mission to create Africa’s own prestigious world class artisan chocolate brand.

His chocolates are handmade from scratch, with flavours such as chilli infused pralines, truffles and bars. It’s not an easy journey though; Naheem sources cocoa mass from from West Africa, raw chocolate from Belgium, cocoa butter, cocoa powder and agave sugar from South Africa, but says he can try to change things by creating products that can compete on the global market.

He says

“The cocoa that is bought from West Africa is usually taken by massive companies and taken abroad, then the process of chocolate is done there and sold for quite an expensive amount. But today people are getting exposed, people know what chocolate is. People are curious to know how to make chocolate. That same cocoa instead of going outside of Africa, can still be within Africa and the skill is coming to Africa and chocolate is able to be made locally,”

Now, Naheem is not the only one with his eye on the chocolatey prize; the most prominent mass-market chocolate maker in West Africa is Ghana’s cocoa processing company, which makes around 1,000 tonnes of chocolate per year under its Golden Tree label. In Togo, a group of young Togolese entrepreneurs have come together to create their own chocolate business called Chocotogo. They make organic chocolate with locally sourced cocoa beans.

Analysts say however, that Africa needs to carve its own chocolate making niche to compete globally.

Financial expert Yves Ouya

“What we need to look at is what market are we targeting? If as Africans we want to make our own chocolate to compete with the European market or make luxury chocolate then in my opinion it will be difficult for those companies to succeed. On the other hand, if we look at it from the point of view that there is a large number of people in the world who want to consume chocolate and who cannot consume it because it’s a luxury product, so then we need to put on the market a chocolate of certain quality that is acceptable. I think that’s a sector that can work,”

Back in Kenya, Ahmed’s store, Absolute Chocolate has become a hit with chocolate lovers, who say they like the attention to detail that comes with these home-made chocolates.

Caroline Mutinda, a Nairobi resident says

 “You can get a message on the chocolate, you can just order for a specific chocolate and they will deliver that specific one, the one that you want. That’s one thing I like about their chocolates, they are different and custom made,”

Naheem makes about 400-600 Kenyan Shillings, about 4,000-6,000 USD in sales per month. He hopes to expand his business to include an ice cream range and eventually have a “bean to bar’ production in Kenya.

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