Starting a business is a challenging endeavour and achieving success under any circumstance is a great accomplishment. Alhaji Kabir Bawa overcame some obstacles to establish his thriving food business
Alhaji Kabir Bawa is the founder and Chief Executive Officer, Afro Foods and Spices Nigeria, a food processing company.
Bawa’s path to becoming an entrepreneur has been an interesting one. His education and training provided him all it takes to launch a career in the civil service.
He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Studies from Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. Besides a graduate in certificate module in International Financial Services of University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom as well as combined Masters Degree of Arts (MA) in Globalisation, International Development and Transition Emerging.
Bawa started his career as an accountant with the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) where he spent 12 years. All the years, he tried to make a career out of civil service but he just couldn’t. He was struggling to stay while his heart was seeking exploits in self employment.
He was suffering from a family trait. His grandfather was an astute trader and a business man and so was his late father. He said: “I grew up in a family business of construction and general trading.This had positive impact on me.” So in 2006, he resigned to establish Afro Dimension Company Limited, a building and civil engineering company, which was into real estate and manufacturing.
In no time, the company became one of the biggest concrete manufacturing companies in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Though a firm believer that “food is at the centre of our whole society”, his diversifying into food processing was as a result of the frustration he went through in the hands of Customs/Quarantine officials of the United Kingdom. He said: “Each time I carry food stuff to family and friends who live in the United Kingdom they get confiscated at the Heathrow airport because of lack of effective labelling and packaging. The last straw was when I carried Ogbono in black nylon bags for my doctor friend and was asked at the airport what it was and I stood there helpless telling the white man it was Ogbono and he was looking at me. What language is this guy talking? I was perplexed about how on earth I would not know Ogbono was not English.
“Eventually, the foodstuff was confiscated at the airport. After that experience, he decided to do something to save himself and other Nigerians from further embarrassment in the hands of Quarantine officers across the world.
For five years, he began to research into what makes Indian and Chinese food get global attention and the result led to the setting up of Afro Foods and Spices.
Today, his company is involved in processing a wide range of products, including cowpea, bean flour, fonio, ginger, garlic, whole wheat meal, yam flour (Elubo), brown beans, peeled beans, among others, using modern processing equipment. The products, he said, just got into the market a couple of months ago after going through rigourous checks and procedures by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and are certified fit and offered registration numbers. His vision is to revolutionise the market by offering affordable and nutritious food options made from local products. He started with his savings and support from the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin). He has put quite a lot of resources into the business. His passion for food and a desire to ‘disrupt’ the food industry will see him turn a humble idea into a national food business. For him, the potential in the food industry is unlimited. This is because people will never stop eating. He continues to see opportunities everywhere.
His mission is to make the company a multi billion naira food processing company engaging about 10,000 farmers and providing employment to about 3000 skilled Nigerians in the long run. He wants to see Afro foods not only in the kitchen shelves of every household in Nigeria but in Wal-Mart in the United States, on the shelves of Tesco, Sainsbury and ASDA in the United Kingdom.
Bawa and his company are a real inspiration, because they are testimony to the power of perseverance, tenacity, confidence in a great business idea, and a desire to build a powerful brand that can make a difference in the marketplace. Most of the product ideas in Afro came about as a result of observation and acquiring knowledge through asking questions and processing answers. An example is the introduction of Afro peeled beans. He said: “One day I called my wife from the office and told her I was craving for moin-moin and I knew I couldn’t get it when I needed it because the socking and washing takes time and effort. “When I came back home, I asked if the moin-moin was ready but lo and behold the beans was still undergoing washing. I stood in the kitchen watching the processes and in the end sympathised with all moin-moin and bean cake lovers. “At that stage I came with up with the idea of providing ready for use peeled beans.”