SEATTLE, Washington — Unemployment in Nigeria reached an all-time high in July 2018 with an unemployment rate of 23 percent – a monumental jump from the 13.9 percent unemployment rate in July 2016. In response to this alarming increase, many are asking what has happened in the past few years to cause such a loss in job security. One entrepreneur found an answer in the nation’s negligence of agriculture. Agriculture, she noticed, was an untapped marketable source for the economy that many Nigerians had previously been ignoring. She decided to change that attitude with the founding of her snack company, ReelFruit.
“I saw that there was an unemployment crisis in Nigeria. There are a lot of young, talented Nigerians who don’t have the opportunity to get decent and meaningful work. I believe it’s companies like Reelfruit that are moving Nigeria forward in terms of creating jobs, buying raw materials from smallholder farmers, reducing unemployment and, most importantly, reducing poverty.” –Affiong Williams, founder of ReelFruit
What is ReelFruit?
ReelFruit is a snack company located in Nigeria that processes, packages and distributes a variety of dried fruits and nuts, including mangoes, pineapples, bananas, coconuts and cashew nuts. Since ReelFruit’s factory is based in Nigeria, it is providing job opportunities for Nigerian manufacturers. ReelFruit also only obtains its fruits from Nigerian farmers, which boosts Nigerian agriculture by providing a consistent demand for their produce.
The company got its start in the city of Lekki, where the Prince Ebeano Supermarket was the first shop to shelve their products. Since then, the company has expanded its range tremendously. Today, ReelFruit is sold in more than 250 stores throughout Nigeria and served in local and international airlines, schools, hotels and restaurants.
Of course, no one succeeds alone. Affiong Williams and her team at ReelFruit were able to afford their expansion after winning a USAID-sponsored financial prize awarded to female entrepreneurs who have aspirations of improving food security and quality in their developing home countries.
USAID and Feed the Future
Feed the Future is a branch of USAID that “coordinates activities and support across a set of aligned countries and at the regional level in Asia, Central America, and East, Southern and West Africa to improve food security and nutrition.” Feed the Future also awards an “accelerating women entrepreneurs” prize that connects female innovators to investors so that they can continue to expand their businesses.
Since 2014, this program has helped more than 400,000 women-owned and operated businesses gain access to financing. Affiong was elated to win the prize for ReelFruit, stating that “I knew that the services we would get would really be instrumental in helping us get to the next level.” ReelFruit’s women led company is now creating jobs and sustainability in Nigeria.
The partnership between ReelFruit and Feed the Future just goes to show how international investors can help ambitious innovators improve their own communities and economies while creating something beneficial for the whole world. Affiong hopes to someday sell her products on a global level and set a precedent for “Made-in-Nigeria” brands.