Honey Money

On our first full day in Accra we were given the chance to explore the city and, being British, obviously made our way straight to the sea. We jumped off at Tema station, a bustling, noisy tro tro junction, and walked along the road to a lighthouse, which you were able to climb for a small unofficial fee. We got an incredible view of the city as dusk approached, with traditional fishing boats moored just off the coast, a handful of larger buildings in the central district, and a huge expanse of low-built housing in every direction, some areas in darkness due to power ‘load shedding’. We were given a brief history of the city, but I’m not sure that I believe Queen Victoria visited fifty years ago…

After the first day though our work really started. The whole team, British and Ghanaian, had six straight days of further training. Some of the training was brilliant, particularly talks from the head of the Africa Business Network, and, as we’re all working in agricultural businesses, a local expert who seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sector. As we all come from different backgrounds, we all found that some sections of the training were pretty basic, but others were completely new. There was also plenty of discussion over topics, such as the suggestions from our marketing expert that there was no point selling honey when everyone just bought it from the village, and that nobody in Ghana bought products for their health benefits.

We’ve also now had our first week in our businesses. Myself and Eunice are working for Uplife, a small honey packaging company based in Teshie, to the east of the city, which is unique at least in the national market in selling honey in sachets. Our remit is quite wide; helping the company to put together their financial records, make better use of their financial data, and develop a marketing strategy. The marketing element is particularly challenging as consumer confidence has been ruined by producers selling ‘honey’ that is really a mix of sugar and melted foam, mmmmm. Plus, as crystallisation isn’t widely understood, any honey that starts to set is suspected to have been mixed with sugar to bulk it out, so most Ghanaians will buy imported honey if they buy honey at all, so our main competitor seems to be Rowse! If we could crack the trust issue there is potentially a huge market as the sachets are unique, and imported products are expensive.

There are only four staff at the company, and the manager balances his time between Uplife and a consulting business. The office and production facilities are surprisingly small, and the sachet packaging machine, the only mechanised part of the process, is only around the size of a fridge. In the first few days we helped out with the packaging, which is a great break from looking at the accounts, and really satisfying when you get into a rhythm. We’re in a small office, which amazingly has air conditioning, about the only time I’m able to get out of the heat. There was some disbelief when I told the office that the temperature in the UK was around 15°C; the air conditioning unit only goes as low as 16°C!

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