Francis Masha Thoya, 33


Seaberry Snacks

Shadows and dust, Proximo says in the Gladiator movie, are all that men and women are. It’s what we do in life that’s forever engraved on our headstones and legacy, so make it count.

Francis may not be a fan of Greek tragedies, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting his name engraved long after he is gone. His weapon of choice then is a Samaki cookie made from fish, cassava, coconut and milk.

“I came up with this idea because pregnant women and children under five years old die in hospital out of malnutrition.” He says he also wanted to be one of the problem solvers who create jobs for others. “The government cannot employ all of us.”

“I wanted to create a market for our local products. Cassava is ranked as a food that poor people eat. We wanted to change that sentiment by adding value to cassava. Now farmers can plant it proudly,” he says.

"I wanted to create a market for our local products. Cassava is ranked as a food that poor people eat."

To Francis, everything is valuable. Whether it is for the farmers, his clients, or even his workers. “We have many resources around us, but we are not utilising what we have around us.”

This is his fourth year in the business, which he started at university. Oh, he is graduating this year and has already received a scholarship to the Netherlands to pursue a Master in Food Science.

“We did our product analysis in Portugal, and our product is extremely unique. A child can take two cookies and spend the day without eating anything. Ditto a pregnant woman, but she has to take three.”

He is quick to point out that Samaki cookie is not a flavour. You ground the fish into a powder and mix the ingredients.

Innovation, he says, is like faith.

“People never believe in it immediately until they see that you have gotten sponsorships or recognised by the Business Daily Top 40 under 40 men, haha!”

“We operate with a small machine that produces 20 snacks in three hours. It’s a bit hectic, but we can make 50 daily.”

Seaberry Snacks sells a tin for Sh200, “But we are in a capacity of selling it at Sh1,000 because the demand is there, but the supply is low.”

The dream is to have a factory geared to produce snacks and conduct research. “We want to do research on fish-as-food-medicine rather than injections to treat common problems through medicinal compositions.”

As Shakespeare observed in Julius Caesar, it’s far easier to be remembered for doing evil than doing good. Well, unless you are Francis. With his Samaki cookie, he is not just putting food in people’s mouths but also his name.

Eddy Ashioya