At a state visit to Switzerland last year, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo put his cards on the table. The second largest cocoa producer would no longer ship the raw material to Switzerland if by doing so it would trap the country in poverty for the next century.
Ghana and the Ivory Coast supply 70% of the cocoa beans, but most of the value in a chocolate bar is generated in Europe and North America. The global chocolate industry is worth over US$150 billion. West African economies receive less than US$6 billion.
This is despite a growing demand for consumer chocolate in West Africa, some of which is satisfied through imports.
In his address to the Federal Council of Switzerland, Akufo-Addo decried the colonial-style relationship with the world’s chocolate manufacturers in which Ghana provides raw materials only to import finished goods.
“There can be no future prosperity for the Ghanaian people in the short, medium or long term if we continue to maintain economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials,” the President said.
It is well known that most farmers in the two top African cocoa growers live in dire poverty. Some employ children or extend their farms by cutting down forest to make ends meet. Farmers get at most 7% of the chocolate value chain. Those who make, sell and market chocolate grab more than 80%, said David Pilling, a reporter with the UK Financial Times.
Added to that, Ghana is not set up to produce chocolate bars on a commercial scale. With no dairy industry, milk power must be imported. Packaging has not kept up with cost or sophistication with the west. Energy is more expensive and less reliable.
But now, several domestic companies are making bars for Ghana’s growing domestic market. Two Ghanaian sisters run ’57 Chocolate, one of several artisanal manufacturers producing high-end chocolate in small batches.
Fairafric, a German-Ghanaian company is producing export-quality chocolate in large quantities from a $10 million factory north of Accra. Fairafric’s founder, Hendrik Reimers, says that by turning beans into bars domestically, five times more value stays in Ghana.
Finally, made-in-Ghana chocolate does well in a premium market. It can also win over the millennials who respond to stories about supply chains that create decently paid jobs.
Ghana has made remarkable progress on expanding primary cocoa processing and chocolate production capacity, the South African news organization, The Conversation, reports. Now it is time to develop a vibrant domestic chocolate industry and benefit from a 1.3 billion strong market provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area.