Written By Jashan Sippy
In 2022 the Food Bridge's African Diaspora Agrofood Entrepreneur of the year, was won by a Cameroonian entrepreneur bringing positive change to the international agrifood sector
Entrepreneurship is intwined in the migration narratives of African Diasporas. If one needs proof, then Mr. Cyril Sanjoh’s journey is enlightening and inspirational.
Born in Cameroon into a family of entrepreneurs, Cyril’s father was a successful trader and serial entrepreneur. Cyril keenly points out that he is from the business oriented Bamileke ethnic group. So, his interest in entrepreneurship should come as no surprise. Although entrepreneurship has always been part of his life, being an African Diaspora entrepreneur in Europe came with more challenges peculiar to Cyril’s circumstances and environment.
In 1992, Cyril moved to Germany to study agronomy. He had the intention to return home to Cameroon after his studies. So he started working part time and embarked on different entrepreneurial projects in Germany. First he began exporting consumable goods from Europe to Kumba in Southwest Cameroon. Soon this business was expanded to include the sales of second-hand tyres, electronics, a laundry service, cement store and a multi-purpose business centre, which also provided communication services to the community. Unfortunately, like most diaspora entrepreneurs relying on others to run their businesses back home, some of these lines of business became unsustainable due to mismanagement.
Undeterred, Mr. Sanjoh relocated from Germany to Belgium, and began looking for opportunities of employment and entrepreneurship. He took what he intended to be a temporary job, with an international courier company. However, what was supposed to be temporary, became a 20-year long career working nights. Cyril also worked as a delivery driver during the day to fund his entrepreneurial aspirations. He was very intentional in his career goals because he wanted to have enough resources to provide for his family and to start off new business ventures in Cameroon.
While working for the courier company, Cyril was able to open the first African food shop in Denderleeuw, East Flanders, called Dender Afrika. Due to personal and career challenges, he sold the shop but took this setback as an opportunity to re-strategize.
Since it’s first edition, the African Diaspora Agrofood Forum focused on bringing together individuals, businesses, and organizations from the African diaspora and the agrofood industry.
As the profile of the forum has grown over the years, we have worked hard to provide a long term vision of African diaspora entrepreneurship and compelling reasons why entrepreneurs in the agrofood sector should consider participating and exhibiting at such a forum.
There are many benefits to be gained from participating and exhibiting at this 7th edition of the forum, for members of the African diaspora and their partners.
- Markets Access and Business Opportunities: The forum provides a unique platform to connect with potential partners, customers, and investors within the agrofood sector. Being at the event can open doors to new markets and business opportunities, especially in Europe and also Africa where the agrofood sector holds significant growth potential.
- Networking and Collaboration: Participating and exhibiting at the forum allows entrepreneurs to network with others active in the agrifood sector. These connections can lead to valuable collaborations, knowledge sharing, and access to industry insights.
- Showcasing Innovations: For entrepreneurs with innovative agrifood products or services, exhibiting at the forum will enable them to showcase their work to a relevant and engaged audience. This exposure can help generate interest and brand recognition.
- Access to the African Diaspora Community: The forum is specifically targeted towards the African diaspora in Europe, which presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to engage with this influential community. This audience have a keen interest in development and entrepreneurial projects in Africa. Thus investing in or supporting businesses that have a positive impact on Africa's agrofood sector will be of interest.
- Learning and Professional Development: During the two days of exhibition there will be side events including panel discussions, workshops, and presentations from industry and development experts. Exhibitors can attend these sessions to gain valuable insights, knowledge, and skills that can benefit their businesses.
- Brand Visibility and Publicity: Exhibiting at the forum can increase the visibility of an entrepreneur’s brand, products and services. All exhibitors will be include in brochure which will be widely shared in our network and also by our partners.
The Helping Hand Project