Kingsley Ighobor: Siera Leone Telegraph: 6 February 2024:
Elias has tasted success with exports: two years ago, he shipped lemons, bananas and other fruits to Namibia in a profitable venture.
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of any economy. In Angola, people are determined to shift away from oil dependency, which currently constitutes nearly 94 per cent of foreign earnings.
Although the Angolan economy grew an impressive 3.1 per cent in 2022, the World Bank attributed this growth primarily to improved oil revenues and enhanced economic management.
Recognizing the country’s need to diversity its economy, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is actively assisting the government in implementing an extensive Train for Trade II programme funded by the European Union and aimed at empowering thousands of Angolan entrepreneurs predominantly involved in MSMEs.
Africa Renewal interviewed some successful small business owners to shed light on the key factors in their success and the prospects they see for their businesses and their country.
Angolan entrepreneur Elias Carlos Manuel, aged 43, has set his sights on Namibia. He is looking to expand his agricultural enterprise by exporting produce — bananas, beans, corn, avocados and lemons — to this neighboring market. He is the CEO of Organizações Carlos Manuel, a company group predominantly involved in agriculture and trade.
With a 140-hectare farm in Huambo, known as “Nova Lisboa” or “New Lisbon,” in west central Angola, Elias sees the export business as the logical next step in his growth strategy.
Training gives entrepreneurs a new view
In 2018, Elias signed up for Empretec training under the auspices of the Train for Trade II programme, financed by the European Union and delivered by the UN Conference on Trade and Development. He considered this training an eye-opener in spotting his opportunities to grow.
AfCFTA will greatly benefit us, simplify trade and enable us to expand our business, which will increase economic activity and create jobs.
Now he eagerly awaits the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The AfCFTA, representing a consolidated market of 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, promises to tackle cross-border trade barriers and streamline border procedures. It could generate nearly $300 billion in revenue for participating countries, according to the World Bank.
Elias has tasted success with exports: two years ago, he shipped lemons, bananas and other fruits to Namibia in a profitable venture. “It worked out well at the time,” he recalled, despite bad roads and stringent border post measures.
Still, he said, “They need our produce in Namibia. We have ready customers and a business partner.” He also plans to sell his produce in other regions of Angola due to high demand.
Elias anticipates a growing demand for his produce, both locally and internationally, and he plans to take full advantage of the AfCFTA, if its state parties fully enact its provisions. “It will greatly benefit us, simplify trade and enable us to expand our business, which will increase economic activity and create jobs,” he added.
Namibia, with a population of 2.5 million, is much smaller than Angola with approximately 36 million. However, a niche and ready market in Namibia not only guarantees a steady cash flow for any business but also integrates regional economies, in line with the objectives of the trade pact.
Diversifying expands horizons
In addition to his agricultural endeavours, Elias is branching out into apartment rentals and warehousing. He is also constructing a private school.
What Empretec did for me is priceless. The training experience opened our minds and instilled the belief in our potential.
He attributes much of his business transformation to the Empretec training in 2019. “The training experience opened our minds and instilled the belief in our potential,” he said.
The certified trainers emphasized the importance of developing a clear business vision and working towards organizational goals. “What Empretec did for me is priceless,” he said.
Elias’ journey — starting with just 50 cases of soft drinks to owning a warehouse and two-story apartments and cultivating tens of hectares of land — highlights his growth as an entrepreneur.
Furthermore, Elias aspires to contribute to society by supporting education. Currently, he donates books to schools in Huambo and periodically provides food for school children. He understands that, when children have access to free meals at school, they are more likely to stay there and learn — and learning makes all the difference.