DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania
Building a relationship with 250 farmers and setting up a factory employing local women, Tahira Nizari, 33, is transforming Tanzania’s tea industry.
Born in Canada, raised in Dubai, educated in London, and worked in Afghanistan, she returned to the country of her grandparents a few years ago, along with her German-born husband Hendrik Buermann to introduce processing, blending, packaging, branding, and labeling of tea for export.
Mostly Tanzania is known just exporting raw tea in bulk, as the country lacked post-harvest value chain facilities.
“We decided to bring it back to Tanzania and let us create a facility in which we can hire workers all locally and have a product that is 100% made in Tanzania,” said Nizari, while cracking jokes with a group of young women in her factory.
Dressed in aprons and supporting polyethylene caps, the women are seen briskly blending, packaging, and labeling tea brands for export.
After migrating to Tanzania in 2018, where her grandfather used to live in Moshi, on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Nizari set up a firm Kazi Yetu, to create jobs especially for women, and increase value addition to locally produced agricultural products notably tea.
Armed with the rich entrepreneurial experience that she has accrued through working in multinational development organizations, she created a unique sustainable investment concept unique to Tanzania.
“The reason we chose this name [Kazi Yetu is Swahili meaning Our Work] is that our main goal is to create jobs and improve the agricultural sector,” she said.
Armed with refined business skills and exquisite creativity honed over the years Nizari is working to create a sustainable investment that is uniquely Tanzanian.
“I am blessed to have been exposed to different countries in the East and West. We used to visit our family in East Africa almost every year,” she said.
The tea industry employs around 30,000 farmers in East African country, in which women represent about 50%.
She convinced her German husband and business partner, whom she had met in Afghanistan to move to Tanzania with an ambitious vision. Since then she has deployed an army of skilled young women, who have improved the economic conditions of their families.
“I am passionate to reduce the gender gap in Tanzania and across Africa where many women still have lower education levels, less access to land, capital, and fewer market opportunities,” Nizari added.
She recalls that her grandfather was also a businessman a smaller one, who owned a farm and a shop in a northern Kilimanjaro region.
In just four years, many believe that she has emerged as a formidable force in the country’s tea industry with her first-hand global experience and her exposure to the complexities of modern-day trade realities.
Nizari had started her career as an intern, a consultant, and eventually project manager for several international organizations.
“Being an entrepreneur is an empowering experience, whose impact is widely felt beyond economic development,” she said.
Challenging agrarian business
According to her, running an agrarian business is more challenging due to the vagaries of weather that affect the supply chain. But she has learned to cushion the risks by building strong partnerships.
After graduating in economics and management in Canada, she pursued a master’s program in London, focusing on social policy and development. She later moved to war-torn Afghanistan to work with local communities.
“I loved working with rural communities and support them to solve their problems. But it was also an emotionally and physically traumatizing experience, but it built resilience and courage with me,” she said, recalling how she lost colleagues, who were attacked in Kabul.
Born to Tanzania Mother and an Iraq father, she has carved a niche for her agrarian ingenuity, expertise, and experience in international development after having worked with World Food Programme and other reputable organizations.
An avid book reader, Nizari enjoys learning about arduous journeys, successes, and failures of other entrepreneurs across the world.
“I recently read Shoe Dog, a memoir by Nike co-founder Phil Knight. It is an authentic and inspiring story,” she added.
Busy with ideating to find ways to expand the business, she finds time to relax by engaging in different yoga exercises. “You can perform these exercises anywhere at any time without any equipment,” she said.
Asked about the secret of her success, the globetrotter young entrepreneur said it is resilience.
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