Exotic EPZ Limited shines at the AWIEF Awards
One of the keys to ensuring sustainable economic development in Africa is through the empowerment of women entrepreneurs. To this end, the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF)is held annually to “bring together over 1,200 female entrepreneurs, thought leaders, industry experts, academics, development organizations, and investors in a combined effort to accelerate the growth of women-owned businesses for Africa’s inclusive economic growth.”
This year, the conference was held in South Africa and included an awards gala to recognize female business owners and entrepreneurs for their contributions to the continent’s economic and social development. One of the winners was KCIC’s very own client, Exotic EPZ Limited, in the Agri-Entrepreneur category.
Empowering female farmers through entrepreneurship
Exotic EPZ is helmed by three female entrepreneurs- Charity Ndegwa, Jane Maigua, and Louise Maina. While they had all previously worked in projects related to women’s entrepreneurship and agriculture, they reached a point where they wanted to create a more sustainable impact through branching out into the private sector. With the launch of their macadamia nut enterprise, their aim was to boost women’s participation higher up in the agricultural value chain as well as help smallholder farmers improve their productivity.
Although the three women went into business together in 2016 and only incorporated the company in 2017, they have already made a positive impact in their community. They have hired over 100 people, of which 80% are female. They train their employees on leadership and have established staff savings to allow them to save and take out loans.
Additionally, Exotic EPZ plans on developing capacity building for women farmers to help them access inputs and health insurance as well as encourage them to aim for higher positions in the agricultural economy. Just seeing three women run an agricultural business alone is very inspiring to the female farmers, who might not have previously thought it was possible.
Furthermore, the company teaches the farmers about how to have better agricultural practices to increase yields and protect the environment. On that note, Exotic EPZ is committed to running an environmentally sustainable business as well; they use the outer shells to heat their boilers (and even sell the excess to neighboring factories. They are also exploring solar energy to power their factory.
Exotic EPZ’s experience attending AWIEF in South Africa
As a result of their inspirational work, Exotic EPZ were nominated for the AWIEF prize for best Agri-Entrepreneurs. The three ladies got an opportunity to visit macadamia nut farms and companies in South Africa. With regards to the latter, they saw a huge difference in the farms as compared to Kenya.
Jane noted that, “In Kenya, most of the macadamia nuts are harvested on small farms, whereas in South Africa it is done on huge plantations. The South African farms also have a much higher recovery rate for the macadamia nuts; while in Kenya, 85% of the plant is not exportable because it consists of water and husk, in South Africa they have reduced that number to 65-70%.”
The 2-day conference also provided great opportunities for learning and networking. Jane was invited to speak on a panel to share their story, which inspired other entrepreneurs.
The forum culminated with an awards gala. There were 5 nominees in the Agri-entrepreneur category, and Exotic EPZ emerged as winners. The award was sponsored by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation in the Netherlands (CTA) and included a €5,000 cash prize. It also gave them a huge amount of publicity with, for example, a buyer all the way from London writing to the ladies to congratulate them. As a result of this win, Exotic EPZ is now part of a learning network called the Value for Her Program, which supports women in agribusiness.
By Alise Brillault