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“For intra-trade to develop within the African region, we have to focus on value addition,” says Jennifer Bash, the co-founder and CEO of Alaska Tanzania Industries Limited, a company involved in the sourcing, processing, packaging, distribution and marketing of food products in Tanzania. “When we started, most of the products that could easily be sold in Tanzania were imported,” says Bash, a marketing graduate from Baruch College in the US. “We had eggs coming from the UAE and the UK and it is not because we did not have eggs in Tanzania, it is because the eggs we had were sold locally without being packaged and branded.”

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Living in the US exposed Bash to how food and other commodities are packaged and branded for sale in supermarkets. “When I came back, I saw things differently. I came with that… knowledge and exposure you get from other countries. I visited supermarkets across Tanzania and I realised packaging and branding is one of the biggest challenges facing locally-produced products. “Producing is not a challenge because we have a lot of organic food and a lot of well-processed foods, but when it comes to packaging and branding, that is where most fail.”

Seeing opportunity in branded food

Bash’s interest in business began as a child. She grew up helping her father sell grains as a commodity in the market. “Of all his children, I was the one who had an interest in business. When I started Alaska Tanzania, I told him I’m not doing something completely different from what he was doing. He was trading in commodities but I am selling branded finished goods and adding value. I am focusing on creating a brand with a view that in years to come it will become a household name.”

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