Africa’s future is innovation
With the arrival of the first cultured meat start-up in South Africa, when will cultivated meat make its debut on the Africa continent? Mzansi Meat Co. is one of the companies that could define Africa’s future.
Africa’s future is innovation
In 2019, the World Economic Forum published an article describing Africa’s future as innovation rather than industrialization. Can Africa seize the opportunity of the fourth industrial revolution, which is merging our physical, digital, and biological worlds? Will Africa’s dominant agricultural, extractive, and manufacturing industries be disrupted by advanced technologies? The answer could well be found with its innovative start-up companies.
In March 2020, motivated by the passion to do something that can have a positive impact on society, Jayson Van Der Walt and Brett Thompson co-founded Mzansi Meat Co., the first cultivated meat company in South Africa, and indeed on the entire African continent. Will Mzansi Meat represent the kind of innovation that could define Africa’s future? In an interview with Supertrends, the co-founders of Mzansi Meat discussed the potential market for their product, and the contribution they can make towards fostering innovation.
Aiming at talents from home
In the terms of technology challenges, Mzansi Meat faces similar hurdles as other industry players, such as the need for a serum-free medium or a bioreactor that can scale up production. Jayson Van Der Walt also acknowledged that their task might be more challenging logistically, since the company is located at the southern tip of Africa, far away from the world’s other high-tech hubs.
However, as South Africa has a well-developed technology sector of its own, he hopes that Mzansi Meat can form links with academics and research talents from home and neighboring African countries. “There are great talents to do this sort of work here. As the momentum increases, people will be more aware of the potential of the company. There will be a lot of interest from academia,” he added.
On consumer acceptance: The flip side is also an opportunity
Talking about how to convince consumers, Brett Thompson thinks that South Africa and the entire continent are in a unique situation. “Cultivated meat is such a new concept that it is not very well known in Africa. So we will have to figure out how to overcome the consumer barriers. I think we probably should communicate really well with the retailers, consumers, and the media. We want to be perceived as a food company, and not as a tech brand. We have the benefit of the fact that cultivated meat is not known in Africa and South Africa, so people have not had a chance to build up their defenses yet. Therefore, this flip side that not a lot of people know about cultivated meat is, at the same time, an opportunity”.
Producing meat for the African market
Western-style processed meat products like burgers, sausages, and nuggets are not as widely consumed in Africa, with the exception of the likes of South Africa. Ultimately, Mzansi Meat would like to produce meat with familiar textures that can be used in traditional African food. However, this is a massive challenge for every cultivated meat start-up. “We will always keep in mind that we want to produce meat that can be used in traditional food, but we also have to focus on what we can do at the moment, which is to produce minced beef, burger, or nuggets for the next few years,” Brett Thompson said.
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