Entrepreneurship in West Africa
Cajou Espoir: creating value in rural Africa
A visit to the pioneering Togolese cashew producer Cajou Espoir shows how the efforts of a Togolese expat and a Togolese professor of economics are generating employment and creating value in rural West Africa.
Cajou Espoir, the first cashew factory in the West African nation of Togo is obtaining raw materials from smallholder farmers, creating employment in underdeveloped regions and providing social benefits for employees.
Cajou Espoir provides 700 jobs over the course of the year and is expanding its business with the opening of a second factory.
This growth would be impossible without pre-export financing and investment loans from abroad.
Covering an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres and with a population of around 7.2 million, the Togolese Republic is one of the smallest countries in Africa.
The economy is highly dependent on agriculture, providing employment for 70% of the country’s workforce.
Togo produces around 15,000 tonnes of cashew nuts a year. But while they’re grown there, they’ve traditionally been processed in Asia.
However, since 2004, they have also been processed in Togo through a profitable enterprise and they’re now generating greater prosperity in the region.
The privately-owned company Cajou Espoir offers an economically successful Togolese alternative for the processing of cashews.
It serves as a model for the expansion of the agricultural value chain in Togo.
The first and only cashew processing company in Togo was launched by François Locoh Donou, a Togolese expat who wanted to give something back to his homeland.
Cajou Espoir obtains financing from funds managed by responsAbility. Export contracts that are already in place serve as security.
Maurice Edorh, Director of Cajou Espoir and a Togolese university Professor of Economics, says: “Without financing from international investors, we wouldn’t be able to keep our factory running throughout the year.”
Cajou Espoir employs 700 people, 80% of whom are women. They particularly value the free childcare offered to them by the company.
The people employed at the plant are mainly recruited from the rural population in Tchamba.
Many are farmers who gain a much-needed additional source of income. On average, a worker at Cajou Espoir earns around USD 50 per month.
As jobs are scarce in Togo, many employees travel far to work there.
The raw cashews are stored according to the producer (meaning their origin is clear) and then processed.
Preparing cashews for consumption is an intensive process. Employees work in pairs to remove the cashews from their shells.
Cajou Espoir has become a reliable buyer for the Togo cashew harvest.
Farmers in Afimkabié are pleased they can sell their harvest to a cashew processor in Togo.
Mouzouh Balakiy from Afimkabié has 7 hectares of cashew trees and says: “Before Cajou Espoir, there was a lot of uncertainty. Now we are paid in cash immediately.”
Rim Azirar (right), Investment Officer at responsAbility, with Maurice Edorh, during her visit to the new Cajou Espoir factory in Blitta.
Rim says: “Cajou Espoir is an ideal candidate for our agricultural fund. It operates in an enterprising but sustainable manner.”