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How Alexis Kalinda Started Congo’s First Locally-Owned Chocolate Factory From His Family’s Kitchen

Lowa chocolate factory manager Kalinda Salumu Alexis and his employee dry cocoa pods at the Lowa Chocolate Factory in Goma, Eastern DRC. June 23, 2020. Photo by: REUTERS/Djaffar Al Katanty

 

The cocoa-producing industry is dominated by Ghana and Ivory Coast. And there is an abundance of evidence that these countries have not benefited much from the cash crop. Aside from these two countries, there are other minor cocoa producers such as Nigeria, Cameroon and DR Congo.

One of the main uses of cocoa beans is chocolate production. However, almost all the giant chocolate manufacturing companies are based in Europe, which means that the continent continues to export raw cocoa to Europe. A few entrepreneurs on the continent are beginning to change the narrative. One such entrepreneur is Alexis Kalinda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He heads the Lowa chocolate factory, based in the country’s North Kivu province. It is the first locally owned producer in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the Africa Report, the chocolate factory produces 200kg of chocolate per month for the local market. Kalinda grew up farming mainly coffee so as to help the family put food on the table. It was therefore expected that he would tilt toward the coffee industry. Instead, he became fascinated with the cocoa value chain.

“I noticed that food shops were selling chocolate bars and I thought that there was room for improvement in that area,” he told the Africa report. He, then, decided to venture into making chocolate.

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To start, he took possession of abandoned land by the Belgians in the 19650s in his native North Kivu and started training farmers in cocoa production. He also assisted them to form cooperatives and taught them good farming practices.

From his family kitchen in Goma, Kalinda started his first processing tests in 2013. He further sent samples to the United States for further analyses so as to meet international standards. After it was confirmed in the U.S. that the beans were of good quality, he started his business fully.

Kalinda went on to establish the Lowa chocolate factory in 2019, which he named after a local river where the beans are grown, 150 km west of provincial capital Goma, according to Reuters. Raw materials for his chocolate factory are sourced from about 500 growers.

So far, he has limited production to 200kg of chocolate per month. According to him, he operates with three machines which can only produce 2.5kg of chocolate per day. He is now working to add three additional machines which would allow him to increase production.

Lowa chocolate factory produces bars of 20, 45 and 80 grams, with hints of chilli, ginger, peanut, coffee, black pepper, and roasted bean chips, according to the Africa Report. What is also interesting about Kalinda’s venture is that he does cocoa production sustainably.

“I do community conservation. I protect the gorillas. So I won’t destroy the forest with my activities,” said Kalinda. “We wanted to link our chocolate to the DRC’s history and biodiversity and show that we make it with Congolese products, for Congolese people.”

Kalinda produces his chocolate under the brand name “Made in Goma.” What is more, Kalinda now aims to export to Europe.

“We Congolese also have our talents,” he told Congo Forum recently. “That the partners abroad trust us and that they come to take part in forums on cocoa and chocolate. I hope that foreign entrepreneurs will take an interest in us, that they will recognize our strength and that they will appreciate the good taste of Congolese chocolate”.

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Written by PH

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