Exclusive Interview: Chigozie Bashua, CEO of The Nut Place

Chigozie Bashua, CEO of The Nut Place

Whilst on holiday in the UK in 2012, Chigozie Bashua paid a random visit to a medium scale nut processing plant in Tottenham. She wondered why these nuts, abundantly available in Nigeria, continued to be exported as raw materials outside the country, only to be imported and sold at higher prices back home in Nigeria. What was originally a casual visit became a crash course in nut processing, and thus began her journey to become the Founder/CEO of The Nut Place.

In this interview, Chigozie Bashua shares her entrepreneurship story and her thoughts on economy diversification through Agriculture in Nigeria.

Bashua Tiger Nuts (Courtesy - The Nut Place)
Bashua Tiger Nuts (Courtesy – The Nut Place)
  1. In your experience as the Founder/CEO of The Nut Place, a nut processing and sales business in Nigeria, what are your thoughts about diversifying Nigeria’s economy? What role does Agriculture play?

I believe diversification of the economy will bring about the much needed change Nigerians continue to clamour for. Our mono economy and over-dependence on oil seems to be doing more harm than good to us. We shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. We need to build a resilient nation and one of the ways to do that is to improve other sectors. Give same attention to other sectors of the economy like the oil industry. We are blessed with so many resources which we have not tapped the surface.

Agriculture plays an important role in the development of the nation but more importantly, agribusiness ensures we do not totally depend on food imports. Due to years of importation of food products, we have been living with constant inflation of food prices. So many people cannot afford healthy food and agriculture plays a crucial role in ensuring that the country progresses economically. I believe that with proper government attention, African countries can start feeding themselves.

2. As an entrepreneur whose venture is already off to a promising start, how can young entrepreneurs navigate the unique business environment of Nigeria to kick-start their businesses to ensure job creation and economic progress for the country?

Nigeria is a blessed country and I believe we do have a large market for so many business ideas. Your business idea must solve a problem in your environment, that is the only way to succeed.

Bashua Toasted Coconut Flakes (Courtesy - The Nut Place)
Bashua Toasted Coconut Flakes (Courtesy – The Nut Place)

3. You are an Alumni of the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme and former president of Royalty Toastmasters Club; how have these achievements impacted your work and your journey so far?

As an alumni of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I have been exposed to a wide network of entrepreneurs, we were trained for 12 weeks and that was the most important aspect for me. The foundation is constantly looking for ways to assist its entrepreneurs and I must say, I deeply appreciate the commitment of Mr. Tony Elumelu and all the people that have committed their time to ensure we succeed in our businesses. The support of the foundation has helped validate my business idea.

Being the  past president of the Royalty Toastmasters club improved my leadership skills. Leadership is all about learning and putting what you have learnt into practice.  This has helped my vertical and horizontal communication. As you know, the toastmasters club is a public speaking club. These associations opened me up to a new network of people.

4. The world is advancing as technology and innovation continue to impact businesses across the globe; with Agriculture in Nigeria, what gaps have you identified within the industry and how can we close or significantly reduce these gaps for a more efficient and prosperous industry?

One of the issues facing our agriculture in Nigeria is automating our agricultural processes. We need to leverage the advancement of technology to scale our businesses. That way, we can increase our production which will in turn have a multiplier effect in the availability of finished food products in the markets.

Bashua Tiger Nut Flour (Courtesy - The Nut Place)
Bashua Tiger Nut Flour (Courtesy – The Nut Place)

5. You are a qualified IT Engineer with several years’ work experience to your credit, how do you apply this knowledge and skill to the work you do at The Nut Place?

As an IT Engineer, I ensure our processes are automated as much as possible. Technology ensures we do more with less effort.

6. Gender was a priority in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and continues to be so in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), how can women be encouraged and supported to participate significantly in this industry that is largely dominated by men?

I’m happy that more women are beginning to recognize that they have so much in them. However, much more needs to be done. We need to encourage and educate women to get out of their shells or any confinement (mentally or otherwise) that suggests to them that they cannot achieve their dreams and aspirations. We need to support women in terms of credit facilities for their businesses, business processes that are friendly and technical support, especially in regions where women are terribly marginalized and denied these opportunities.

7. A lot continues to be said about the rise of Africa, the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative it is called. Do you agree that Africa is indeed rising? If so, what are the changing realities, scenarios and events that inform your conviction that Africa is indeed a continent on the rise?

I believe Africa is rising but we still have a long way to go. Governments of African countries have to develop an enabling environment for their people. There are lots of young people trying to change their narratives with ground breaking technologies and innovations, the number of women entrepreneurs is increasing with African women taking the lead in the African market place.

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