About At Origin
Thank you for reading At Origin, a portal to Africa’s agriculture and trade.
Origin is a critical yet complicated concept in agriculture.
Whether it is a cocoa trader explaining the virtues of West African cocoa, renowned for giving chocolate its characteristic deep and rich flavor, or a bag of Starbucks coffee, extolling the unique properties and aromas of single-origin beans, the source of an agricultural good – where it is grown – helps give it one-of-a-kind qualities.
But, more than naught, origin is obscured in the commodity trade given the very nature of commodities.
This is especially the case with commodities coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, which is best associated with purveying “luxury” agricultural goods, cocoa, black tea and coffee, to the world market.
Like the very nature of origin, Sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture is opaque and convoluted.
This is why I find it endlessly fascinating.
When I was working as a commodity analyst at a bank, I stumbled upon intriguing facts, anecdotes, and stories, which illuminated the inner workings of this complex sector.
Not only do these anecdotes shed light on how food is produced, processed and traded in Sub-Saharan Africa, they also serve as a prism to understand the continent’s politics, business and development.
Thanks for stopping by.
When I left the U.S. eight years ago, I never imagined that I would settle in West Africa.
For five years, I lived in the Middle East and North Africa, studying and working as a freelance business journalist.
At a business intelligence company, I covered dry financial topics like mergers & acquisitions, takeovers, and joint ventures for a handful of Arab markets. I’d scan the local papers looking for deals, which I’d summarize and enter into a database for the subscriber base.
I also took over coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa, which was met by indifference from editors and journalists since it did not produce many large deals.
It was a dull job, but I was location independent, leading a digital nomad lifestyle before the term even entered popular culture.
More importantly, I discovered that I enjoyed business – especially south of the Sahara.
I absolutely loved reading about business in Sub-Saharan Africa for its dynamism and complexity.
Nigeria especially captured my imagination. I was enthralled by its brash and entrepreneurial people and sheer complicated nature as a nation that continued to survive despite great odds.
In 2012, I went to Lagos for a six-week spec trip during which my enthusiasm for “Naija” only grew.
I would soon find an opportunity to relocate to West Africa. In 2013, I moved to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to take up a full-time analyst position at an African bank. The job focused on agriculture, which resonated with me, having grown up in rural Virginia.
In 2016, I set up my own research consultancy focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture and soft commodities. For all consultancy queries, please contact me here.