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Back to The Source: Sesame

By Erin O'Connor | Tue May 02 2017
Members of RENEW’s Impact Angel Network (IAN) and another U.S. investment group invested in a sesame company based in Ethiopia in September 2015. The investors anticipate that over the next five years, the company will support more than 10,000 small farmers, strengthen the sesame industry in Ethiopia, generate $32 million in export sales and create more than 60 jobs in the manufacturing sector. The investment, like others the IAN has made into small and medium enterprises in East Africa, is anticipated to have a significant impact in the local economy.
Why did we decide to enter the sesame sector? In less than a decade, Ethiopia jumped from being a minor producer of sesame to one of the top five sesame producers in the world. Currently, Ethiopia is the 4th largest exporter of sesame globally, and the 2nd largest exporter in the world markets. This export vies with gold and coffee for the largest revenue producing exports for Ethiopia. The country currently supplies 14% of the global market for raw seeds.
In Humera, a small town in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, sesame seeds are the main crop. The Humera Sesame Seeds are one of the most sought after sesame seed in the world due to its white color and favorable aroma. This area of Ethiopia provides the perfect conditions for growing the seed which is high in oil content, and contains an appetizing flavor. The secondary sesame seed produced within the country is known as the Welega Sesame, primarily harvested for its high oil content.
Sesame seeds are a very difficult crop to grow. They’re a tall, lanky plant that can grow between 20 and 60 inches in height. Once ripe, the capsules split open, revealing the seeds. This process coined the phrase “open sesame”. The plant is extremely sensitive due to its weight, and it requires significant manual labor in order to harvest it.
Most of the sesame seeds grown in Ethiopia are exported, and processed outside of the country. Because of this, Ethiopia is missing an opportunity to increase sesame revenues. Our new manufacturing plant, Ethiopian Sesame Co. will bring the value and process back into the country. This investment is anticipated to have a significant impact in the local economy.
RENEW is proud to be a part of the sesame value chain in Ethiopia
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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