His name is Berhanu and he is here to revolutionize the Ethiopian potato industry.
Well, to be fair, there isn’t yet a strong potato industry in Ethiopia in the first place, but Mr. Berhanu counts as the ultimate pioneer.
Located outside the main roads of Bahir Dar, in the vicinity of the blue Nile river, Mr. Berhanu’s company headquarters operates in the lowest floor of a tall apartment building.
The idea of his business is simple: processing potato into different foods such as flour and baby formula.
Berhanu got his business idea whilst working in an S.O.S Children’s Village. He realized there are a lot of food security and nutrition problems in his country. So he decided to do something about it.
And what do we do these days when an idea is born?
We start to google it.
Berhanu decided to stick with potato which is considered a poor man’s food in Ethiopia although it is such a nutritious crop. It can be grown in all sorts of environments, including the highlands of Ethiopia. In those regions, it can be a life-saving food security crop in times when no other food is available.
Furthermore, potato contains crucial micronutrients such as iron, potassium and phosphorus. Additionally, it can be harvested three times a year.
Berhanu came up with a few products he would start processing. Those were flour and baby formula.
When asked about the baby formula recipe, he smiles and tells it is his business secret. We are told, however, that it is already sold at the local markets and proven a success.
His other successes include selling potato flour to injera manufacturers. The famous Ethiopian injera is traditionally made out of teff but its price is getting too high for many. Potato is a good alternative.
Surely Berhanu needed some machinery to make all this happen. He didn’t order any machines from China as is the usual option, instead he googled (again), designed the blueprints and had the machines custom made by the local handicrafters in Bahir Dar.
This is the kind of spirit Ethiopia needs! People starting things because they want to be in charge of building their own country.
My colleague puts it well: “Our country was sleeping for a very long time (he is referring to the communist Derg regime in the country during the years 1974-1991) but now we are waking up. Everybody has to be on board and make this change happen.”
The name of Berhanu’s company is an Amharic word which means something new is coming.