Mamusa Marketing is a classic example of South African entrepreneurship. The primes supplier of dried mangos and other dried fruit has been under pressure recently as more suppliers are entering the market from various African countries. I talked to Elmien De Villiers, founder of Mamusa Marketing from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
The Clipper: Please tell us a little bit about your company.
Elmien De Villiers: We founded the company on May 1, 1997 so we are in business for over 20 years now. I was a teacher before that. With the new democracy in South Africa Ithe country was drastically changing the teacher’s workforce. I had the choice to be retrenched with a single payment. I took the money to found the company. Being a teacher with no background in agriculture or agricultural trade you have to learn some lessons. In 1997, I traveled to Switzerland brainstorming what I could do after my career as a teacher. In 1998, I visited the South African Embassy in Switzerland and I asked about potential trade items between South Africa and Switzerland. They suggested that start trading dried mango. I started looking for producers of dried mango from South Africa and I found reliable partners. I knew Switzerland a little bit and I knocked on the door of Coop [http://www.coop.ch] and Migros [https://www.migros.ch], the two largest retailers in the country. Migros was the first to buy mango and the first shipment was 5mt of mango. We later learned that the goods were withdrawn from the shelf.
At the time we added sugar and it became clear that the consumers were looking for sugar-free dried mangos. From the minute the product was delivered without sugar it started growing. At this time Migros was a partner for growth in South Africa and our retail client. In 1999 there was a big flood in South Africa so we could not export. But in 2000 the company was really taking off in 2004 we already exportded 250 mt of mangos to Switzerland. As the business grew we also started to deliver to the UK. Every time the demand exceeded the supply. Only in 2016 and in 2017 the supply in South Africa exceeded the demand. oday the company exports 340-450 mt per year.
The Clipper: What happened after this successful start?
Elmien De Villiers: South Africa was for many years the leader in dried mango. The World Bank recognized the potential of mango for job creation. So the World Bank started funding projects in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia…That whole development meant that South Africa was losing its market share for dried mango.
The Clipper: So you had to compete against a subsidized industry without any subsidies for yourself?
Elmien De Villiers: In a way it’s an unfair competition because they were funded by the World Bank and we had to fund ourselves…
Read in full in the upcoming print edition of THE CLIPPER MAGAZINE
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