From cocoa to chocolate, made with love in Africa


Diogo Vaz, a company in the idyllic island of Sao Tome and Principe in West Africa, is producing organic luxury chocolate from rare cocoa varieties. PHOTO/Diogo Vaz

It produces 70 percent of the world’s cocoa and yet Africa has very little hand in making the final product – chocolate. But one producer in Sao Tome and Principe is on a drive to become a global brand for African chocolate.

A premium chocolate maker in São Tomé and Príncipe is on a drive to promote the taste for “made in Africa” chocolate, and tap into a $100 billion global indulgence associated with Valentine’s Day.

Diogo Vaz, a company in the idyllic island of São Tomé and Príncipe in West Africa, is producing organic luxury chocolate from rare cocoa varieties. The objective is to promote Africa’s palate for chocolate, a world-loved treat estimated to be enjoyed by one billion people every day.

“For centuries Africa has produced cocoa from wild beans but the consumption of chocolate is really low in Africa,” Willy Mboukem, Plantation Director at  Diogo Vaz, told IPS in a telephone interview.

“Modern consumer habits are a challenge and we know in Africa we are not big consumers of chocolate. People do not have this habit and often buy expensive products with a lot of sugar and missing out of the real taste of chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa.”

Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria produce 70 percent of global cocoa but enjoy just five percent of the global value from this market. Cocoa producers are unable to get more value from selling the raw material for chocolate to realise higher prices for farmers.

Worse still, many African cocoa producers have battled with adding value to their beans, — a process that would boost jobs and incomes — because they have little control on their value chains.

Emerging markets consultant Edward George says in an online paper that West Africa is the largest cocoa producer in the world but it exports 75 percent of it as raw beans – a key ingredient in chocolate — giving the lion’s share of value addition to confectioners and retailers at the end of the value chain.

George said that despite Africa’s agricultural sector having many inbuilt advantages of abundant agricultural land, a rapidly-growing population and lower labour costs, it lacked an efficient marketing infrastructure.

This prevented farmers and processors from getting full value from their crop, even in its raw form. In addition, Africa’s agriculture value chains were highly fragmented and face international competition.

George said a solution to poor value addition in Africa was to boost local demand for cash crops, within countries and regionally.

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