International Grants Help Boost Family Businesses In Tanzania

International Grants Help Boost Family Businesses In Tanzania

From Financial Times

Come 10am on a Saturday, 64-year-old Said Salim Bakhresa is not off enjoying the leisure pursuits of an ageing multimillionaire; he is checking up on developments at his factory just outside Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.

But that makes perfect sense for a family business that has reached its $600m-plus turnover thanks to five decades of his own hard work.

“It’s a true rags to riches story,” says Abubakar Bakhresa, his son, who now runs most of the family businesses as executive director. “He built it from scratch – he started at 14 – he made shoes, ice-cream, he was a trader – he did everything.”

Bakhresa Group is similar to many of Tanzania’s leading conglomerates – private, family-run affairs with reclusive founders who started out very small.

In what was long a closed economy, suspicious of outside investment, they built up diversified companies that supply the nation with everything from soap to soft drinks, ferries to fuel. These little-known home­grown multimillionaires are now fast expanding their businesses throughout the region and beyond, taking on international giants.

“We’re fighting now Omo and Unilever,” says Mohammed Dewji, group chief executive of another diversified company, MeTL. He is the grandson of its founder, who ran a small shop in a market town.

“We want to expand in Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and eastern Congo in the next 24 months,” he says of the company, whose products range from toothpicks and lollipops to cooking fat and wheat flour.

Of 50 industrial companies in Tanzania analyzed by the London School of Economics in a study published last year, 29 had their origin in the domestic private sector. They took off when Tanzania loosened its statist ways and started allowing private business back into the economy from the mid-1980s, and a handful of family-run businesses bought out state entities that went into receivership. They went on to develop into multimillion-dollar conglomerates. Read more at Financial Times.