AFRICA’S SUPERFRUIT JAM FROM MALAWI
“We are not going to change this continent with ideas, we are going to change this continent with ideas executed…” Vusi Thembekwayo (2019). For thousands of years the African continent has enjoyed the Malambe fruit; from the coastal plains of Madagascar to the river banks of the shire, the baobab fruit has been at the center of exotic, rare and nutritious fruits. Ian Khonje is the 19 year old Malawian entrepreneur and businessman set on continuing this iconic baobab story and legacy in today’s modern and busy world through his first and latest product, Malambe Jam, which stems from his Ian Khonje Food Processors business. The delicious and tasty fruit jam is made from baobab fruit locally known as “Malambe”, and is infused with a unique blend of various ingredients carefully selected to compliment the baobab fruit by adding a subtle but distinct flavor which brings out the taste, fast making it a breakfast table staple.
Packed with incredible nutrients and minerals, the Malambe fruit is highly rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, aclcium, phosphorous, carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, protein and lipids; which begged the question from Ian on why the tropical superfruit had very little investment in the Malawian food industry. During his first year of studying Economics at the University of Malawi, he learnt about the concept of competitive advantage where countries are able to produce goods or services of equal value at lower prices which allow them to generate more sales or superior margins compared to market rivals or other countries. Ian soon found that the lack of investment in the local superfruit was a result of several factors: the lack of innovation in the processing arena, the Malambe fruit being seasonal and people’s lack of knowledge about the benefits of the fruit. Noticing this challenge, Ian resolved to tackling it through establishing his own food processing company, Ian Khonje Food Processors, in 2018 to service the niche opportunity which also enabled him to make the Malambe fruit and its benefits available all year long due to its shelf-life which boasts of over a year given the storage conditions are observed. Not only does the sweet tasting Malambe jam contribute to one’s diet as a healthy and affordable source of nutrients on the breakfast table, its taste makes it compatible to be used and applied directly to snacks such as bread, biscuits, baked snacks, porridge, ice cream and if in a rush, you can scoop it straight from the jar to curb your sweet tooth.
It’s time for Malawians and Africans to make it their responsibility to utilize various resources that are at our disposal around us, Ian says. As it stands, Malawi has all the resources it needs to flourish; where others see dry brown seeds with white dust engulfing the seed, Ian and his team see a product that can stand as a giant at the breakfast and snack table. Instead of perpetuating the belief that our country is poor, Ian says, we need to start seeing the endless opportunities that surround us with an innovative and problem-solving mindset. Fueled on by the positive responses of his customers who send him serving suggestions of Malambe Jam through their daily use, Ian and his team are working towards producing a wide array of Malambe Jam flavours and other fruit jams through their innovative ideas and products. The experience has been teaching us about our own products and how we can make them better, Ian adds.
Establishing a value chain that allows Ian’s business to attain the right economies of scale for their raw materials is the main challenge in his journey of entrepreneurship & establishing his business. One of their main activities in growing their business is to visit as many communities in areas which have baobab trees as they can in order to build strong relationships to bridge the large-scale procurement gap.
On what keeps him driven on his entrepreneurial journey, Ian cites the story of David and Goliath. It serves as a reminder for Ian to be a man of vision and self-belief, just as David was when he defeated Goliath through knowing who he was and what he was capable of regardless of only having five stones in his arsenal. Ian also spends most of his time learning about business through reading books, business podcasts, workshops, seminars, conferences and other entrepreneurs with the goal of equipping himself with the right “stones” like David did in defeating the belief that he could, he is driven by the desire to make his dreams real and to adapt to situations whilst drawing strength from different experiences. Through spending most of his time learning more about business through reading books, other entrepreneurs, business podcasts, workshops, seminars and conferences, Ian’s goal is to equip himself with the right “stones” just like David did to defeat his own version of Goliath and achieve business success.