The manufacturing sector has been on a downward trend, figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) have shown. The numbers are not necessarily an indicator that the sector is on its death bed, but that players may be running out of ideas.
Erick Muthomi, the 28-year-old CEO of Stawi Food and Fruits, is determined to lead the way in getting the sector to put out more innovative products and boost growth. Kenyans are today more conscious of their health than at any other time, and Mr Muthomi is well aware of this.
An idea around this began bubbling in his mind back when he was in law school. He figured he could build a business around health and the fact that in his hometown of Meru, banana farmers were getting short-changed. “I went back to school and studied business management, and right after graduation in 2010, I wrote a business plan and applied for funding.
I got it and in 2011, I started Stawi Foods,” he said, adding that Stawi is borrowed from the Swahili word for prosperity and growth. His plans were ambitious, but he felt he had to help banana farmers.
“The motivation behind Stawi was to provide a market for small-scale farmers and increase the shelf life of bananas, which would rot in farms, especially those belonging to farmers who could not reach the collection centres set up along the road on market days,” he said.
Muthomi also wanted to provide employment opportunities for the youth. With assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture in late 2010, he was able to access resources that turned his ideas into a business.
“I had developed a concept of what I wanted to do, which was banana processing. After six months of setting up, I went back to Meru where I teamed up with local farmers,
” he said. Big clients Muthomi’s firm leased property in the area and started out buying bananas from farmers, which would then be processed and packaged into banana flour.
In 2012, Stawi debuted the flour in the market. It is made from processed green bananas and is gluten free, nutritious and can be used to make baby food, porridge, baked foods and soups. The product is distributed across major supermarkets in the country.