N’Guessan Koffi Jacques Olivier, who was born to a farming family in Dabouyo, Ivory Coast, has a naturally strong love of the soil. He has a knack for achieving rich and prosperous harvests. He couldn’t imagine only being a farmer however. As the SRC president of his school, N’Guessan ran a fundraising drive build three new classrooms for his school. Then, he started a vegetable garden at school for learners to look after and harvest. He had a flair for initiating projects and for making them grow. Thus, his destiny was found in combining his two greatest loves and talents: agriculture and entrepreneurship, initiating the start-up “Yaletite”.
Yaletite specialises in the growing, production and selling of cocoa, and, the processing of cocoa into products like chocolate. N’Guessan noted that the Ivory Coast, while one of the largest cocoa-producing countries in the world, wasn’t reaping the benefits of the sort-after raw material and its products, like chocolate. This is because the country had focused only on growing cocoa crops and not entering into manufacturing of it into chocolate.
N’Guessan wanted to change this practice, namely so that the local, mostly poor community would reap more benefits. With this aim in mind, he set up Yaletite to employ young people as well as students with disabilities to work as farmers. Not only is cocoa farmed, but peanuts, bananas, cassava and maze are grown too. The success of his initiative means N’Guessan has been able to sustain 32 employees, with more views to expand.
The excitement of becoming an Anzisha Fellow in 2016 , at the tender age of 22, has brought N’Guessan’s ambitious dreams into focus. It was here that N’Guessan opened his eyes to new agricultural technology: the creation of high-grade “leather” from the tough fibers of pineapple crowns. The technology has been developed in Spain, and N’Guessan aims to replicate it specifically for Ivorian conditions. “This has huge implications in terms of moving away from the use of animal hides for leather,” he said. N’Guessan has thus started Tyegro to focus on this newfound challenge. The start-up was recently selected to be incubated by Hub Africa. N’Guessan is like a bullet train and is an inspiring entrepreneur to keep an eye on.
In terms of the Anzisha Prize, competition is tough. Twelve finalists are selected annually out of 500 applicants. Apart from the cash prize money which is shared amongst them, they each take part in amazing ongoing programs of support and training. These include the chance to receive expert advice sessions from experienced business folk, a two week intensive training and networking camp, regional Indabas with Anzisha fellows and ALA alumni, a global speaker circuit in which fellows are able to travel and represent Africa as well as polish their speaking skills, an opulent Anzisha Prize Night where the most impressive fellows are rewarded, and most importantly the Youth Entrepreneur Support Unit (YES-U). The latter is a collaboration between leading business incubators on the continent for the purpose of offering customised business support for Fellows.