Bernice Yalley, founder and CEO of Africa Goodnest, often traveled back and forth for work between Southeast Asia (Bangladesh) and Africa while living in Washington, D.C. Coincidentally, after the 2016 elections, it was then that she decided to leave the U.S. and join her family in Ghana, West Africa.
“The U.S. election wasn’t the reason I left; it was just a happy coincidence. I was a professional development project manager, and a lot of my background and professional experience has been in Africa, particularly Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. I traveled quite a bit throughout West Africa and I saw the changes. It was like this energy,” the consultant says.
“I remember in 2015, I was in Burkina Faso [for work] looking out of the window and I called my parents, and I told them that I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to move back to Ghana. I had no idea what I was going to do, I didn’t have a job, but I knew that I wanted to move back. The continent is young and vibrant, and at least for West Africa, there is a lot of energy.”
This energy included product innovations by rising entrepreneurs using the continent’s natural resources. Yalley took notice, and soon an idea was born to connect these products to consumers around the world.
The Start of Something Good for Africa
After moving back to Ghana, Yalley worked for various organizations, including an international humanitarian NGO as a consultant. With a love for all-natural products, in 2017 she started writing a blog called Africa Goodnest, which highlighted products from the continent.
“I love natural products. It is funny that when I moved back to Ghana in 2016, I didn’t want to do something that was maudlin and mawkish. I knew I wanted something with natural healing, but I just didn’t know what,” says Yalley.
In 2019, after blogging for a couple of years, she decided to take Africa Goodnest seriously by registering the company name and participating in her first incubator program. Her idea would now evolve from a blog to a wholesale Pan-African platform for distributing made-in-Africa consumer packaged agricultural products.
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“When I was younger, whenever my mom would visit us in the U.S. from Ghana, she would bring black soap that was put in simple plastic tubs or wrapped in brown paper. In the past few years, the number of African natural products that I grew up with have really professionalized and now there are various brands of black soap, including body wash and more,” the CEO says.
With the pandemic halting travel and standard business operations in 2020, Yalley stayed put in Ghana working on logistics and even changed the business model to focus on going directly to the consumer before reverting back to wholesale.
“Because I love natural products, it was my primary interest because I thought that these would look good enough to sit on any shelf around the world.”
Yalley officially launched Africa Goodnest in March 2021 as a direct-to-consumer business. Elinam Adadevoh Teinor joined her in May of 2022 as chief growth officer as they transitioned the company into an e-commerce and logistics platform that helps transform how retailers and other businesses find and buy value-added natural brands from Africa.
As for products, Africa Goodnest is primarily starting at home in Ghana, known for its cocoa, raw shea butter and hibiscus flowers. Finished products using these resources can be found on Africa Goodnest’s website. “We have such a history of exporting the wrong stuff that has been transformed into finished goods that are commoditized. We felt that we could add value and export finished products because that’s how we can gain wealth, not by exploiting raw goods like coffee or cocoa,” Yalley says.
Although people think that chocolate comes from Belgium or France, Yalley shares, “Most of the world’s chocolate [cocoa] comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, but we do not have an industry that really adds value to it here in Africa. Things are starting to change more in Ghana than say, Côte d’Ivoire. Having lived and worked in Côte d’Ivoire for a commodities trader, I know when I go to the grocery stores in Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire, I now see major brands on the top shelf, while before certain brands were usually on the bottom shelf and weren’t getting as much visibility and play.
Africa Goodnest: The Answer to Amazon
Africa Goodnest’s website is divided into three categories: Food & Beverage, Herbs & Spices and Health and Beauty. Some of the brands they sell are Yvaya Farm, Hendy Farms and Huilerie Royale, to name a few.
For those who need that morning brew to start your day, their Gold Coast Roasters from Ghana is a coffee lover’s dream. Yalley and Teinor recognized in 2021 that their most popular product sold was coffee.
According to the website, Gold Coast Roasters is described as a “uniquely flavored coffee produced from an exquisite selection of handpicked and graded robusta beans. “In West Africa, we have a robusta coffee that doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world. Most of the world drinks Arabica coffee which comes out of East Africa, and it tastes smoother than robusta. Robusta is a strong ‘wake up your ancestors’ coffee,” Yalley laughs.
For those who prefer a spot of tea, Leaves of Magic Moringa has teas in hibiscus lemongrass and peppermint flavors.
Other Ghanaian goods you can receive wholesale include Hendy Farms Mango Jam – a pure, naturally sweet mango pureed fruit. Groital’s Diya Dried Fruit Chips are freshly harvested mangos, coconuts and pineapples that are naturally dried with no added preservatives, sugar, color or flavors. Or maybe you enjoy premium roasted cashew nuts produced by Rosswood Ghana.
Their motto is, “We help make the business of trade and export from Africa easier.” And while they are just getting started, Yalley and Teinor plan to put their country on the map with the goal of one day expanding to others and exporting the best from Africa around the globe.
Do you or someone you know own a business that has natural goods and is produced and packaged in Africa? If so, contact Africa Goodnest at https://africagoodnest.com/new-supplier-registration/.