Wezi Mzumara, the only female black chocolate maker in Malawi, was born in Ethiopia into a family of farmers, she relocated to Malawi 12 years ago after having lived in the UK to come back and also try her hand at farming. When she returned to Malawi she found that her parents had planted 5 cocoa trees for her. This was exciting for her because it gave her an opportunity to try something new and enable her to exercise her knowledge of value addition.
She now runs a Kwanza Cocoa farm which is based in Nkhatabay.
The northern region of Malawi produces its own chocolate. She has managed to create a niche in the market both locally and internationally through her premium brand. All her chocolates are bought online through the steadily growing clientèle she has built over years. She is also a chocolatier in the making.
Kwanza chocolate is made from both local and traditional ingredients from within Malawi and therefore they are organic in nature. They also easily cater for vegans, those on Keto diet and other special diets because they do not have many preservatives or additives.
Wezi allows flexibility in the processing of the chocolates according to the specifics of the customer at premium rates. She also offers private chocolate tasting. In regards to the sustainability and continuity of the business, the whole family, siblings, and cousins are actively involved. Open lines of communication have enabled her to create a firm business with little or no family hurdles as they handle business and family matters separately.
Wezi is so passionate about cocoa and this year alone she has managed to plant 3 000 trees, the lazy money tree as she calls it. Cocoa trees take up to 5 years to mature and they do not need a lot of nurturing, just water and manure. Due to its low maintenance, Wezi has taken it upon herself to empower women by giving them cocoa seeds for free to plant outside their kitchens and in 5 years repeat the rewards she also offers training.
To achieve this objective, she gives women a platform to be equipped with the necessary tools to be financially stable and independent.
So far the entrepreneurial journey of being the only cocoa farmer and owning the only chocolate processing company in Malawi has been amazing without any challenges because she considers every situation as an opportunity to improve and grow. She however admits that being an entrepreneur is time-consuming and requires a lot of attention.
Living in a society of instant gratification and social media hype, she has managed to stay focused on the business’s goal and vision thus creating a premium brand. She prides herself in owning her entrepreneurial journey and running the business at her pace without any high expectations or pressure. She says ‘’ïts working just fine for me”.
She recently attended the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) the conference which took place in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania focused on women and youth in Trade dubbed: “Women and Youth: The Engine of AfCFTA Trade in Africa”. The conference allowed her to meet with other entrepreneurs and learn from their business adventures. Her main concern however about free trade is that its primary focus as of now is on commodities instead of products and therefore her business might not largely benefit from it but she is hopeful things will get better Kwanza chocolates are unique in the sense that they are craft chocolate, different from commercial chocolates.
What has been most helpful in the uniqueness of the chocolates is that when Wezi came back to Malawi from the UK, she localised herself thereby gathering a lot of valuable information from the women at the market, street vendors, local shops etc and then she fused that information with her experience as well as exposure. She is currently working on producing drinking chocolate and is still in its experimental stage thus thinking outside the box and introducing more products to the brand Wezi is also a media personality, events manager, publicist and accessories designer.
As Africa’s economy is growing since the turn of the millennium and its governance having improved considerably since 2 000, Wezi believes the future is bright not only for entrepreneurs in Malawi but across Africa.
Many in Africa like Wezi are waking up to the realisation that for Africa to rise and own her destiny it is up to Africans to build successful economies and societies. Help for Africa lies within her and it is time to abandon the mentality of being dependent on aid and charity, and, work towards the transformation of the continent and place her as an equal in the diverse world.
Cathrine Banda is a community Activist based in Mzuzu, Malawi. She is also a former Radio Presenter at The 1873 FM in Johannesburg South Africa.