Fadegnom Charles loves Fufu. He knows how painstaking it is to make the Ghanaian delicacy, loved by most in the African continent. Charles used to have to sit for hours until it was served on the table, or wait for the weekend when there was spare time for pounding.
Fufu is a popular staple food in West and Central Africa made out of cassava, plantains or yams. It is for Ghanaians what fish and chips are for the Brits and Spaghetti Bolognese for the Italians. The fine dough-like paste in its final form is achieved only after meticulous pounding of the ingredients, for at least 30 minutes, done with the use of the traditional pestle and mortar. Most African families seek the help of male family members for the task of continuous pounding. Fine hand and eye coordination is also essential to reduce the risk of having one’s fingers pounded while kneading the dough in the pestle.
Charles, who owns a small electrical equipment workshop, recognized a unique business opportunity in Fufu. He made an electric pounding machine that grinds cassava, yam and plantains in just 1 minute. In August of 2004, he manufactured the prototype using oxidized aluminum and an electric mortar with the strength of one horse-power. Today he owns a fully-fledged workshop (including a furnace plant), employs 25 individuals, and churns out at least 3 finished Fufu machines per day.
“I have sold close to 500 machines so far. But all this time I did not publicize or promote it as it had to be improved on the go. And today I can say that it is perfect.” Charles reports. His electric pounding machine is certified by the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and is sold with a three months after sales service guarantee. Charles produces 2 machine sizes: The small machine pounds up to 5 servings of Fufu, and the large, up to 10.
A self-made businessman and an innovator, Charles believes that it’s time that Africa aspires to the comforts that modern technology has to offer, although in keeping with the traditional services and remittances of the value chain.
“If Africa is to feed Africa, it needs to promote its home-grown industrialists, who help sustain the consumption of organic African staple food like Fufu,” says Charles.
Fadegnom Charles, his brother Bruno and his production team will be at the 6th African Agriculture Science Week at the International Conference Center in Accra, Ghana, from the 15th to the 20th July. They will exhibit their electric pounding machines at the event–Fufu in a minute!
Blogpost by Miuru Jayaweera, a social reporter for AASW6.
Photos: M. Jayaweera