Fifteen years ago, agricultural economist Dominikus Collenberg moved with his wife to Zimbabwe – with the aim of building something together that would have a positive social and ecological impact. The success story began with weeds.
Today, there is a network of over 14,000 smallholder families who grow local herbs or collect wild fruits for export. His company Organic Africa supplies tea, spice, medicine and cosmetics manufacturers all over the world. A container is shipped almost every week, including for the French perfume industry, which produces essential oils. It all started with weeds by the wayside: Collenberg had the right instinct and began to utilise the country’s natural treasures to create added value. There are more than 5,000 wild plants in Zimbabwe, and only a handful are used sustainably, including the baobab tree, whose nutrient-rich fruit rots in many places. Dominikus got people all over the country to pick up the unused fruit and prepare it for further processing. With his startup B’Ayoba he now exports baobab powder onto the international market. Collenberg generates income for thousands of people and shows that social entrepreneurship also works in Africa and that a lot can be achieved here.
What problem do you solve with Organic Affrica? Why exactly does it need your solution?
We work with smallholder farmers to implement activities that are socially, ecologically and economically sustainable. We do this so that we can find as many imitators as possible.
What did you do before you started the current project?
Initially, I worked in international development cooperation, then at the Federation of German Industries, where I was responsible for cooperation between development organisations and German companies.
What or who motivated you to become a social entrepreneur?
The need. There are only a few successful impact companies in Africa.
Which of your successes do you remember most?
Originally, we wanted to present an example of how an impact business works in Africa. We then realised that we needed to grow ourselves. Today, more than 14,000 families benefit from our work.
Were there any moments that were particularly challenging and what did you learn from them?
Our task as an impact company is to act as a bridge between the poor in rural Africa and customers worldwide. Bridging this gap is often a major challenge.
© Dominikus Collenberg
„The effect of Fairtrade-certified products in particular can easily be underestimated. Here in southern Africa, there are hardly any products that are of high quality. This is changing very slowly.“
— Dominikus Collenberg, CEO of Organic Africa
Where do you want to go in the future and what are your next big goals?
Our model works. We will expand this model to other countries and other products in English-speaking Africa.
What do you wish you had known before launching your project/company? What advice would you give to others along the way?
When we started, there were no other impact organisations in Zimbabwe. We had no peers. Proactively reach out to like-minded organisations and try to develop synergies.
What podcast do you listen to regularly? What book is an absolute must-read for you?
For corporate management in Africa: Measure What Matters.
What are your tips for doing good in everyday life? And where do you perhaps find it rather difficult to live sustainably?
The effect of Fairtrade-certified products in particular can easily be underestimated. Here in southern Africa, there are hardly any high-quality products. This is changing very slowly.
Which organisation or start-up particularly impresses you and is a true role model for you?
Coca-Cola in Essen in 1941, a company that fought the war with whom?
Complete this sentence: The world needs more …
… regenerative companies.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Your initiative is excellent – Grow!
Every month, we interview interesting entrepreneurs and focus on their personal stories. The interviews are intended to inspire, motivate and encourage people to put their own ideas into practice.
Do you know any social entrepreneurs with an inspiring story that we should interview? Then write to us!
Andrea Rebensburg, GOOD Impact Portfolio: firstname.lastname@example.org
In December 2023, we support the African Baobab Alliance, which Dominikus Collenberg has supported to launch in Simbabwe. Find out more on the project page: