“Women need education to stimulate development”

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By Ngozi Uchenna Nwoke

Chief Ifeyinwa Nnanna Mba is the Managing Director/General Manager of a Nigerian brand that processes and markets Nigerian foods like Nigerian rice, the most popular of its products. The company also markets branded soybean oil, palm oil, plantain flour and tomato paste.

A Business Administration graduate from Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State, Ifeyinwa Nnanna Mba combines her strong academic background with a burning desire to succeed in agribusiness.

In this interview with Daily Sun, she revealed how she took the world by surprise when she delved into agricultural processing and marketing. By venturing into a field that many young women and even men of her generation would not consider as a source of income, she is quickly becoming the new face of modern agriculture in Nigeria.

Share with us what inspired you in your type of business and how the journey began.

My entry into agriculture could not have come at a better time. In what appears to be a paradigm shift in investing in agriculture, Diva World Trading Services has opened a window of opportunity for potential investors in the agricultural sector and created direct and indirect jobs for many young Nigerians. . Diva World Trading Services owns a 30 ton rice mill located in Mgbidi in Imo State, the first of its kind. Besides being a source of pride, it also attracts other investments in its host community. It is a boost for the economy of Imo State and the country despite the high cost of production brought about by the huge challenge of lack of access road, water supply and electricity in the region.

The plant has the capacity to process between 15,000 and 25,000 kg of rice per day and 50 TPD of oil processing line. The mill is a partnership between Diva World Trading Services and renowned for its high end machinery. We currently have a staff of 24 men and 10 women, making a total of 34 employees. We have a wonderful team of professionals as the management staff of the organization. With an uncommon passion and innovative ideas on agribusiness, I firmly believe that agriculture is the new oil. Apart from our state-of-the-art rice mill in Imo State, we also have branches in Lagos and Benue State with distributors in different parts of the country. So I decided to invest in the mill due to the high demand for rice in the state and to create employment opportunities for young people. Also, when the president banned the import of orieng rice, I took the opportunity.

Initially, I was producing my rice in the Middle Belt, but after thinking, I decided to set up a factory in Imo State because there is no rice mill there. Today is the result of that decision I made early last year. This factory cost more than 450 million naira to establish as all the machinery was imported from China and we keep spending as we run on diesel for 24 hours as we have no stable power supply.

How do you source the agricultural products that you process?

Our paddy comes from the north of the country and part of the southeast. Our soybeans also come from certain northern regions. Our palm oil comes from the east and our plantain comes from the western part of Nigeria. So, it shows that Nigeria being a country rich in agricultural resources, that is where we source all of our produce.

What challenges do you face in your business?

The lack of regular power supply is a big challenge for us. The government must help provide accessible roads and electricity supply to reduce the company’s production. On a daily basis, we consume a lot of electricity to process our products and this is profitable. You can imagine the amount of diesel we consume with the rise in diesel. It is extremely discouraging and causes us to lose gain.

Has the insecurity in the country affected your business in any way?

Yes. We source our products from local farmers across the country. and because of insecurity, most farmers no longer go to their farms for fear of being killed or attacked. and for the few who still take the risk of going to their farms, selling the produce to wealthy people in the same industry, who in turn resell the produce to us at a very exorbitant price. if all the farmers are out there on their farms planting and harvesting, we will have no reason to inflate food prices. The insecurity has affected us terribly. We survive simply because of our passion, our resilience and our determination to succeed in business. and also meet the needs of our customers and distributors.

How do you get funding to sustain the business, especially with the economic downturn?

We have not received any external financial support so far. But we have one or two commercial banks showing interest in our business. We obtain our external financing from private investors who grant us loans and we repay them when due. Even though we like getting funds from the bank, it was not so easy, due to so many strict conditions. We hear that the Central Bank of Nigeria has opened up channels to help companies like ours, we are optimistic that we will be lucky to get facilities from government owned banks at a reduced interest rate and duration longer.

How do you manage to balance work and family?

I have always been able to balance the equation between my family and my business and so far neither has suffered a lack. Fortunately, I have an energetic and supportive mother who takes care of my children, while I am there dealing with the business. but in all my family comes first. I create time for them, take them on vacation where I give them quality attention. I have competent hands both in my business and in my family.

How has it been for you as a woman doing business in a male-dominated industry?

Women face many challenges in society. First of all, many Nigerian women are not even exposed to proper education even till today. This therefore contributes to the high poverty rate among them. Even when they are educated, they do not have the opportunity to use their potential. Many men are not comfortable with their wives doing anything productive, so many just want to keep their wives at home. So you see a lot of smart women unable to do anything with their abilities. Even if they want to do something, the capital can be a challenge; there are hardly any organizations that help women, give them capital and support them in business.

What is your stance on more Nigerian women getting involved in your type of business?

I use this medium to encourage women to come out of their shell and embrace this business. Not only this business, but become productive in their homes and in society. The vital role women play in development cannot be overstated. Women also need support and encouragement. We see how women who engage in petty trade are frustrated in the markets with outrageous taxes. The same happens in the corporate sector, where women are undermined or seen as weak because of their gender. Women need to be carried. I was lucky to have the moral support of men despite it being a male dominated industry. I get a lot of encouragement from the opposite sex and have never been discriminated against because of my gender. That’s not to say gender discrimination doesn’t exist in the workplace. We just learn to overcome it and move on.

What would you like to be remembered for when you retire from your business?

I like to be remembered for the legacy I created in job creation. My company that lives after me is enough memory for me. The takeover of my business by my children is a good memory of me.

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