The Imperial Foods noodle factory will soon open its doors in Douala, Cameroon, thanks to the truly international collaboration between public and private partners. Cameroonian entrepreneur Ahmadou Danpoulo Baba teamed up with U.S. Wheat Associates’ offices on three continents, the North American Millers’ Association, the American Soybean Association, the private voluntary organization International Relief and Development, and USDA to conceive, design, and build Imperial Foods, which will soon employ 130 workers, mostly women.
Imperial Foods aims to make delicious and nutritious noodles available at an affordable price for both the commercial market and for aid agencies to provide rapid food assistance in times of shortage or famine. The Imperial Foods Company will also create a new market by introducing a soy-fortified and vitamin-enriched instant noodle throughout the Central African region while contributing to the fight against poverty by creating long-term jobs for women and helping to combat malnutrition and HIV/AIDS.
In 2004, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) commissioned a feasibility study to test the potential for noodle production and consumption in western Africa. After serving noodles in schools, hospitals, and supermarkets, the study found nearly 100 percent satisfaction with the product based on taste and likelihood of purchase. Instant noodles have been heavily marketed on every continent except Africa. Since the noodles are tasty, portable, shelf stable, and can be processed locally at little cost, the African continent holds enormous potential for this product.
Following the feasibility study, Mr. Danpuolo Baba collaborated with the aid group International Relief and Development, as well as U.S. Wheat Associates, the American Soybean Association, and the North American Millers’ Association who helped him create a recipe, design and supply a factory, and market his fortified noodles.
The Imperial Foods Company took advantage of FAS’ global web of agricultural attachés and market development cooperators to collect and analyze market research, connect with suppliers, and receive technical production and marketing assistance. As Imperial Foods begins production, the company will also be able to benefit from USDA export credit programs, which guarantee that American wheat and soy flour producers will be paid by foreign buyers. The launch of Imperial Foods demonstrates the powerful impact a worldwide support network can have on a developing country like Cameroon.