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Yeast-free fonio bread in Senegal to combat the price of wheat baguettes, made more expensive by the war | International

Isseu Diop Sakho enters her bakery, speaking loudly into her mobile phone. The 38-year-old businesswoman walks briskly past glass cases filled with baguettes and pastries. She’s in a hurry. She has just returned from Plateau – Dakar’s business district – and now has to go to Ngaparou, 50 miles south of the Senegalese capital, where she runs another bakery and 14 kiosks the sell bread.

At first glance, business seems to be going well. But according to Sakho, her bakery – called Mburu (which means “bread,” in the Wolof and Bambara languages) – is barely staying afloat.

“The year 2022 was hell for us,” she sighs, as she sits down in her office, on the upper floor of the store. She never imagined that the consequences of the war in faraway Ukraine would be felt at home in West Africa. “Within a few months, we saw the price of imported grain skyrocket,” explains Sakho. “This complicated things, because bread is a product with little profit margin and Senegal is an African country. We can’t just double the price of bread, because our customers can’t afford it,” she adds.

Traditional wheat cannot be grown in Senegal, due to the soil conditions and hot weather. For this reason – as in other parts of the African continent – the country is dependent on imports. Before the war, half of the grain that Senegal needed was bought from Russia, but imports halted with the invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. Sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations made it more difficult to buy Russian wheat. Starting in July of that year, Ukrainian wheat reached African countries via the Black Sea Grain Initiative… an agreement that the Russian government suspended just two weeks ago.

The most-common type of grain used around the world to make bread costs about $7 a bushel (the unit utilized to measure wheat) before the invasion of Ukraine began. By the end of February of 2022, the prise rose to more than $12 and remained high until mid-June of that year, forcing many African nations to seek alternatives to wheat. The Senegalese government has applied its own control measures, freezing the price of bread and promising compensation to importers, as explained by Claude Demba Diop – president of the National Association of Grain Importers – in the online media outlet The World.

Although prices have since stabilized, Senegal has witnessed the dangers of relying on imports. The government has since implemented support measures for farmers to grow grains that are indigenous to the land, such as maize, millet and moringa. With this measure in place, the government has set a new goal: within the next two years, at least 20% of national grain production should be utilized towards bread-making. Additionally, West African nations have agreed that it must be cheaper to export and import local cereals.

'Baguettes' made from sorghum, an indigenous cereal, at the Mburu bakery in Dakar.
‘Baguettes’ made from sorghum, an indigenous cereal, at the Mburu bakery in Dakar.Joost Bastmeijer

If the Mburu bakery has survived, it’s precisely because of its focus on indigenous cereals, the owner explains. Upon opening the business in 2019, Sakho made the decision to specialize in sorghum and different types of millets, such as fonio. So, in Mburu, even the classic baguette – eight million units of which are eaten each day in this former French colony – is made from locally-grown grains. The Senegalese Federation of Bakers indicated last year that they want to start making 50% of all Senegalese bread with native grains as soon as possible.

Other bakers in the country have followed the same strategy. Over the last year, the number of merchants dealing with alternative grains has increased. Some of them have even received training to make their bread with these native grains. “I think we have to evolve,” celebrates Sakho. “We have to be smart with what we have at our disposal.” For this trader, importing European wheat when Senegalese cereals are available is absurd.

Fonio is seen by some nutrition experts as an African superfood – much healthier, for example, than the flour used to bake French-style white baguettes, since it is gluten-free and packed with nutritional properties. In eastern Senegal, this traditional cereal has been cultivated and consumed on a small scale for at least 5,000 years.

The UN General Assembly declared 2023 to be the International Year of Millets, in order to promote the consumption of this cereal. According to UN experts, millets can “fight against food insecurity and climate change, promote biodiversity and transform agri-food systems.” However, data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) shows that different types of millets only represent 3% of the global trade in cereals at the moment.

Colonial aftertaste

The war in Ukraine has made many African governments feel the urgency of achieving self-sufficiency when it comes to basic necessities, such as cereals. But to favor this shift, it’s necessary to change eating habits… and that takes time. According to Sakho, about one in three of her customers (mainly Senegalese, but also some foreigners) opt for the baguettes that are made from local grains. And while the businesswoman urges her employees to emphasize the health benefits of this ancient grain, she finds that many customers continue to opt for the baguette that has been the norm for decades. The dark brown bread made primarily with fonio tends to be smaller – the dough only rises a bit, containing less air than a traditional baguette.

If people started eating bread made with fonio in densely-populated cities, it would stimulate the local economy and agricultural sector, while significantly reducing food insecurity in the region. Sakho notes that the war in Ukraine and its repercussions on the world food chain have indirectly succeeded in opening a healthy debate: “[The war] has helped us rethink our daily diet. People wonder why we’re so dependent on imported products and why what comes from our country isn’t good enough. The war has made us realize that we have to focus even more on the cultivation of indigenous cereals,” she stresses. The transformation is still in its infancy, but fonio growers in eastern Senegal are seeing a steady increase in demand. And, if production can be increased, the Senegalese government hopes to be able to export fonio to other countries in the Sahel region.

In Sakho’s opinion, the questioning of the ubiquitous baguette has also sparked another debate about food that has a colonial aftertaste. “Everything was shaped by the French colonizers. I think we have to find a new standard in which our tastes are adapted to the ingredients that abound here,” the businesswoman affirms.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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