Article written by Anna West and originally published by Oko! Magazine, an official partner of Kafkadesk.
Tonny Smith Kiganda is passionate about his favorite fruit, the banana. But when he moved to Prague, the options at Czech supermarkets left him underwhelmed. “The bananas tasted like nothing,” recalled Kiganda. On trips to his native Uganda, Kiganda began carrying bananas and other fruit in his suitcase back to the Czech Republic.
Fortunately for him, the customs restrictions in the country are not as stringent as in others. Soon he began transporting fruits not only for his personal consumption. Kiganda started advertising his fruit hauls on an online sell-and-buy group, taking the metro to personally drop off the produce to customers. “I saw the need to connect family growers in Africa to the market here,” said Kiganda. There was an immediate demand.
What started as a small online venture turned into his company, virunga (written in small letters). The business model is simple. The company pays Ugandan families for the surplus of their fruits grown at home, then it ships the fruits to Prague where they are sold online and at farmer’s markets. I spoke to Kiganda about his tropical fruit business recently at a café in Vinohrady. He had brought with him a generous supply of products.
In the box, there were mangoes, two different varieties of passion fruit, and a salak or snake fruit, a fruit from Indonesia with a rind that feels and looks like snakeskin. There was an avocado much larger and less wrinkled than the ones I am used to seeing in the supermarket, and there were also bananas of a much smaller variety. Aptly called baby bananas, the variety is one of many grown in Uganda.