Last year, the Anzisha Prize judges ploughed through 550 promising applications from 32 African countries to shortlist 12 finalists, and then to crown the ultimate winner of Africa’s prestigious youth entrepreneurship prize. It was a first for both Madagascar and for then 22-year old Hertiaina Randriamananatahina. Tahina, as he is known to his friends and colleagues, entered his fledgling agri-processing business, Fiombonana, into the Anzisha Prize competition, and his victory put both youth agri-entrepreneurship and Madagascar as an entrepreneurial hub on the map.
Tahina aimed to resolve a few problems at once: that of unemployment in his home town, the use of non-Madagascan raw materials, and a lack of efficient and business-minded thinking in the agricultural sector. Tahina understood the significant potential of an agricultural business, considering that Africa’s main source of income arose from agricultural businesses. He wanted his country to benefit more from the industry and hence, the dairy products, jams and confectionary that Fiombonana produces en masse uses only Madagascan (Malagasy) materials. Moreover, Tahina believes in hiring and upskilling locals. Before applying for the Anzisha Prize fellowship in 2016, Tahina already employed 30 people. But his dream was to employ thousands more and to show the world how scaleable and profitable agriprocessing could be in Africa.
Once he was chosen as an Anzisha Prize fellow, Tahina was able to envision his company’s potential and then implement sound ways to make it grow. Alongside his fellow finalists, Tahina spent a week in “bootcamp”, where he was taught by the world-renowned African Leadership Academy entrepreneurial leadership faculty and interacted with high powered business people. He was also provided with one-on-one mentoring. This year, Tahina will continue his training as part of the Youth Entrepreneur Support Unit, which provides consulting and training to Anzisha Fellows for a year
Since winning the prize, Tahina’s business has significantly grown. Fiombonana now has 140 employees (from 30) and produces over 800 kilograms of cheese per week. There is also potential for growth owing to reverse-engineering technology. This is the process of finding out how existing products are made and how to improve on one’s own products. Aspects like longer shelf-life can be determined.
As the Grand Prize winner, Tahina impressed a pan-African panel of judges with his venture response to a real need within this community, effective business model, job-creation potential and demonstrated leadership potential.
His victory is especially impressive considering he had to drop out of school at the age of 12. Now, with the prize money, Tahina aims to not only grow his business, but invest in his education.
Applications for the Anzisha Prize are now open. Apply here.