In his fourth year of studying Agriculture Economics and Agribusiness at the University of Rwanda, Regis Umugiraneza had an idea about sweet potatoes in Rwanda and sub-Saharan Africa. Choosing to go the extra mile, he used his dissertation to interrogate this idea further, and in 2014, he realized he could add value to this crop.
Rwanda often experienced a surplus of sweet potatoes. Everyone was growing sweet potatoes in the rural areas and eating them boiled – the same way they had been preparing them for decades. Yet, while the population in Rwanda’s urban areas increased as people moved into the cities, they could not get themselves to enjoy sweet potatoes because they had been conditioned to the traditional way it was prepared.
Once, while discussing business opportunities with colleagues, Regis shared his idea of adding value to sweet potatoes and they all decided to start a company, CARL Group – a recipient of the 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Programme fund. Today, they are making bread and biscuits from sweet potato.
They produce orange-fleshed sweet potatoes that have a high vitamin content, particularly vitamin A. The main product of the CARL Group company is “VitA Bread”, a certified Made in Rwanda product and one of two kinds of bread to receive Standard Certification from the Rwandan Standard Board. VITA bread is made from OFSP which is a biofortified sweet potato rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A.
CARL Group sources the raw materials for the bread from around 1000 individuals, cooperatives and groups of farmers in Rwanda. The end products are processed daily by a highly qualified team of twelve young visionaries and finished products are then sold in 35 supermarkets and online grocery stores across several neighbourhoods in Kigali, primarily to low and middle-income urban consumers.
The social impact of CARL Group is felt widely across Rwanda because sweet potato is widely cultivated throughout the region; the number of farmers they work with grows as the demand for their products increases. They currently work with five online e-commerce platforms in Kigali.
Through diligence and an environmentally-conscious mentality, they continue to minimise wastage of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and improve OFSP value-chains to increase production and utilization in Rwanda as well as reducing malnutrition among children and pregnant women.
To be the most trustable, admired, efficient, successful and innovative company in Rwanda and internationally, Regis knows that he must keep growing and keep believing in his ideas.
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