Chocolate is very profitable, but the raw material suppliers see very little of it.
According to one estimate, the retail market was worth $107 billion (£78 billion) last year, but Ghana, the world’s second largest cocoa maker, only made about $2 billion.
This is a common phenomenon in many African countries whose economies are still dominated by imperial relationships in which goods are exported to be stored abroad.
Last year, Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, gave note of this when he told a Swiss audience that “there can be no potential success for the Ghanaian people” if things remain as they are.
While the country currently processes about 30% of its cocoa production, there are still many roadblocks in the way of expanding the domestic chocolate industry.
Nana Aduna II, an ambitious cocoa farmer and traditional ruler who inherited his 80-acre plantation two decades ago, is well aware of the challenges.
He is among a number of Ghanaian entrepreneurs who are keen to seize the opportunity to process cocoa in Ghana itself, before exporting a more lucrative finished product.
But when it comes to the sweet stuff, Nana Aduna “decided not to go down the chocolate route”, he says.
“The equipment to make chocolate is very expensive,” he explains. “Plus we don’t have a local sugar industry and we don’t have a local dairy industry.”
Instead, he makes money by giving tours where people can see the fermentation process and see how the cocoa pods are dried in the sun before being refined into teas, wines, and cacao nibs for sale.
Nana Aduna, on the other hand, would have to import milk and sugar to produce chocolate, which would boost the cost of production.
He also claims that making confectionary necessitates constant refrigeration, but that the high expense of the equipment used to do this is a big barrier for entrepreneurs with limited resources.
The farmer’s teas and wines aren’t often synonymous with cocoa, but they’re selling well, according to Nana Aduna, who claims he can make 15 to 20 times more money on these items than he can on raw beans.
Chocolate could cater to a wider audience while still providing strong returns, but he believes it is not feasible at this time.
Others have plans to construct a processing plant in Ghana, but are currently exporting cocoa beans.
Raphael Dapaah, a British-Ghanaian farm owner and chocolate maker based in London, is one of them.
In 2016, he co-founded luxury vegan brand Dapaah Chocolates to add value to the cocoa his family has been producing in Ghana for six decades.
In his London plant, he refines batches of chocolate with ingredients including coconut milk powder and sea salt from Ghana’s Atlantic coast.
Make the move to Ghana.
Setting up manufacturing in the UK, according to the former civil servant, was a carefully chosen policy since it is closer to key markets.
“Once we’ve established a presence in the UK, Europe, and North America, we’ll transfer the majority of our supply to Ghana,” Mr Dapaah says.
Nonetheless, he admits that infrastructure issues in Ghana affected his decision to open a business in the United Kingdom.
He expresses similar reservations about Ghana’s market climate as Nana Aduna.
He was concerned about the inconsistency of energy supply in rural areas of Ghana, as well as the significant upfront capital investment needed to purchase equipment such as refrigerated lorries to transport finished goods to the port.
Access to funds is a major concern, according to Nana Aduna, who claims that high interest rates on bank loans are a challenge for small businessmen, and that he cannot afford to borrow money right now.
“You can’t expand a company if you’re paying interest rates of 18-20% or even higher,” he says.
The nation, on the other hand, has promised to fix these systemic problems.
‘Break the story,’
Industrialisation is a big tenet of government strategy, says Trade and Industry Minister Alan Kyerematen, echoing the president’s comments.
“It just makes sense that our country’s most valuable crop, cocoa… could become the focus of a new industrialisation program,” he tells
“If you look at all the most powerful nations globally they also happen to be the most industrialised economies.”
“There have been signs that there are prospects coming up that are exciting,” he says.
“All these are laudable ideas, [but] some of them still have teething problems. In principle we can say that there’s been some good steps, but the full impact is yet to be shown in the economy.”
Nana Aduna and Mr Dapaah, for example, may become part of the country’s chocolate-exporting sector until the path is cleared.
Mr Dapaah claims that this is his ambition, which arose from his realization of the earnings disparity between cocoa farmers like his family and Western chocolate manufacturers and brands.
“I felt it was past time for our family to take steps to change the story… [and] to think about how I will return to Ghana and support my family and the country’s aspirations.”