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SMEs digest: Kazi Yetu Ltd at work: Listen, think hard – and get it done!

Thursday July 15 2021
Kazi pic

An employee with Kazi Yetu, Ms Asha Nahodha, fills tea bags into packages for export markets. PHOTO | DIANA ELINAM

By Diana Elinam

Dar es Salaam. More than three-quarters of the tea produced in Tanzania is exported, contributing about $30 million to the country’s annual export earnings.

This makes it the fifth largest export crop in terms of foreign exchange earnings, behind cashew nuts, coffee, cotton and tobacco.

Also, the tea sub-sector provides employment to around 30,000 farmers across the land – more that 50 percent of them women – and indirectly benefits at least two million other Tanzanians.

But, even then, Tanzania produced only 23,200 tonnes of the crop in the 2019/20 harvest season, which was less than one percent of the world tea production: 5.89 million tonnes in 2018.

SME Digest got in touch with Ms Tahira Nizari, co-founder and managing director of the Dar es Salaam-based Kazi Yetu Ltd, “an agribusiness that promotes local value-addition targeting export markets.”

Kazi Yetu Ltd was one of the five leading tea companies in the East African region which participated in the three-day conference and exhibition, the World Tea Expo-USA, that took place in the United States on June 28-30 this year.

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The companies exhibited and otherwise showcased their teas and tea-related products at the exhibition which attracted some of the world’s leading tea companies and professionals, as well as buyers from various vertical markets in North America.

In an interview with World Tea News, Ms Nizari said that, “as a growing tea business in Tanzania, this is our first opportunity to participate in the World Tea Conference and Expo. Building on our social enterprise model – in which we value social and environmental impact as much as our economic growth – we are excited to provide market linkages for farmers in tea, herbs and spices from farms around Tanzania.”

In that same interview, she revealed that Kazi Yetu promotes full traceability of its teas, so that buyer can see the tea’s journey from farm to cup.

“We look forward to gathering feedback from visitors of the expo – and, hopefully, find partners to help increase these market linkages and impact for farmers,” she said.

“Our teas are a speciality: unique blends of orthodox black and green teas, herbs and spices... We are looking forward to meeting other tea lovers and potential partners to learn from them about industry trends.”

Kazi Yetu is a social enterprise in Tanzania that is led by women, all of them under 35 years of age. It dwells on increasing value-addition for agricultural products targeting export markets. Their main goal is to create jobs – especially for women – and improve the livelihoods of farmers through better access to international markets, as well as promoting local processing, blending and packaging.

Kazi Yetu’s tea brand, ‘Tanzania Tea Collection,’ sources teas from the Usambara Mountains in Tanga Region; spices from Zanzibar and Tanga, and herbs from Morogoro Region and Moshi in Kilimanjaro Region.

“We have a factory in Dar es Salaam where we have an all-women team to blend and pack the tea, which we sell in Germany, France, UK, Denmark, Sweden, UAE and USA. We promote Tanzanian products that are internationally competitive – thereby bringing more economic gains to Tanzania,” a clearly proud Tahira Nizari radiates confidence.

On what inspired Ms Nizari and her colleagues to start the Kazi Yetu company, she says “Tanzania has a wide range of agricultural produce, due to the wide diversity of the terrain, the highlands and coastal areas. Farmers are producing natural, organic, high-quality ingredients such as spices and herbs; but they often lack access to markets and the capacity for marketing.

“We love tea and other local products – and understand what international consumers seek. So, we decided to bridge this gap by investing in the local value-addition”.

Kazi Yetu are self-financing, and are growing slowly but steadily, step by step. But, they recently received a small loan from the Anza Growth Fund after participating in their Investment-Readiness Accelerator, which supports entrepreneurs.

The company that started in 2018 with a few buyer has grown to selling tea to over 120 businesses in Tanzania and abroad today, including supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and gift shops – and, according to Nizari, it has more than broken even, enabling them to reinvest their profits into growth.

Virtually like many other SMEs, Kazi Yetu faces challenges to growth, mostly in readily accessing affordable loans; high cost of doing business; unpredictable weather patterns affecting agricultural activities, especially during harvest seasons, and the Covid-19-related lockdowns and transport restrictions which made it difficult – if not impossible – to export merchandise.

But the challenges notwithstanding, she says, they have been supported by the International Trade Centre in improving their quality control and other systems, thus enabling to access international markets.

They are also supported by Anza Entrepreneurs with coaching – which is currently ongoing – and by TradeHub (Usaid) to access the North American market.

“We are supported by the Tea Board of Tanzania which has helped us in policy dialogue, access to markets, support with sourcing from tea plantations, and advice – and we are very thankful to all our partners and supporters as we grow,” she says.

Ms Nizari tells SME Digest that, in the next five years, they want to see teas and their other agricultural products become internationally competitive at the market across the North America, Europe, Middle East, East Asia and elsewhere.

“Consumers should see a Kazi Yetu product – and say to themselves: ‘I trust this brand. I enjoy Tanzanian products, and I will consume this product, knowing that its social and environmental impact is positive.’” she says.

Kazi Yetu has been very impactful on smallholder farmers – sourcing as the company does from about 2,500 farmers across Tanzania. This has enables the company to achieve one of its cherished goals: to increase impact and inclusive opportunities. On top of that, their factory is all-women-operated, thus also increasing gender inclusivity.

In concluding the interview, SME Digest asked Ms Tahira Nizari for a word of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

In response, she said: “Don’t be afraid to follow your dream. It will be a new challenge every day – and nothing will come easy. But, if you really believe in it, and in yourself, keep persevering. Find people to help you; don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many unique business ideas in Tanzania!”

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