Africa should prioritise , says Uwase
Larissa Uwase is the Co-founder of Carl Group; a Kigali based agriculture-focused firm and its main aim is to improve the health of Rwanda and Africa through innovative food produced from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. And Carl Group is in the process of making spaghetti from the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.Larissa Uwase was one of the top five female African innovators picked by the World Economic Forum on Africa for 2016. On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa, which was held from May 11-13 in Rwanda. DOLAPO AINA, had an interview with Uwase to discuss Carl Group’s agric-innovative products.
What is your name and why are you at World Economic Forum on Africa 2016 in Rwanda?
My name is Larissa Uwase. I was chosen as one of the top five African women innovators by the World Economic Forum on Africa. About my project, I transformed orange-fleshed sweet potatoes into spaghetti. Orange fleshed sweet potatoes are a new variant of the potatoes in Africa that contains the major carotid, the major nutrient in vitamin A.
I came up with the idea while in the second year at the University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology. And with my business partner (who did a dissertation research on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in Rwanda), we found that most of the people that grow these potatoes are women and most of them don’t have enough places (outlets) where their products can be sold. This is so because there is this belief that sweet potatoes are poor crops; and poor food and food for animals.
I came up with an idea of adding value to the sweet potatoes and utilising the benefits of the vitamin A found in them. As I found that malnutrition; a crucial problem and a big issue in Africa. And I found that in Rwanda, a large proportion of children are suffering from malnutrition diseases. And having the zeal for a transformation in Rwanda and Africa; I came up with this idea of transforming sweet potatoes into different forms, so that people (children and pregnant women) that need the vitamin A can benefit from the nutrition derived from sweet potatoes, without actually eating the sweet potatoes. I am based in Kigali, Rwanda and I have commenced making doughnuts, chips, cakes. And a vision of spaghetti; which we have a sample of.
How did you come about doughnuts from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes?
This species of sweet potatoes has elasticity and I add sixty percent of it. I also, added wheat flour to make it more elastic and form doughnuts. Currently, I produce doughnuts and they are distributed to several stores and supermarkets in Kigali.
What is the name of your brand?
The product is Vit A products (Vit A doughnuts, Vita A chips, Vit A cakes, and Vit A bread) from orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. And we have samples of the spaghetti.
What is your take about the World Economic Forum on Africa?
I really appreciate the fact that I have been privileged to take part in the World Economic Forum on Africa because I have gained a lot. I have been able to meet global figures who started from the scratch like me and are now operating with large industries. This has given me the resolve and confidence, and the conviction that it is possible for me to be the supplier of spaghetti in Africa.
What is the next step for Larissa Uwase?
The next step for me is searching for funds to do more research and development on spaghetti, so that it can be refined and more can be produced for consumption. I appreciate the opportunity to have taken part in the World Economic Forum on Africa. I have been able to meet women that started from nothing but are now owners of big industries. Also, this is inspiring and it emboldens my resolve and conviction to succeed. I have been able to establish connections, which would be sustainable in the long term, and it would have impact on my business that would transform the business from small scale to large-scale business.
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