Written by Mercedes Sayagues
As a child, Minsob Logou loved his daily foufou, the savoury yam-and-plantain dough dipped in soup or sauce that is the staple food in his native Togo and throughout West Africa. But he made sure to be far from the house when it was made.
“I fled from being recruited to pound foufou,” he tells Ogojii.
It is a back-breaking, sweaty and noisy process: pounding cooked pieces of yam and water with a wooden pestle and mortar to make smooth, elastic dough. The fastest way is synchronized pounding by two or three people in a loud, rhythmic thump-thump-thump, the daily soundtrack of urban and rural Togo.
Logou no longer flees the kitchen. He has invented an electric blender that whips up a perfect foufou for 12 people - which would take nearly an hour to pound - in less than 10 minutes, effortlessly and hygienically.
Called Foufoumix, it consists of two rotor blades in an aluminium bucket with a lid, set on a bright blue, wooden stand with a retro, 1960s feel.
It wasn’t easy. Every step was a hassle, Logou recalls, from designing the blender to changing people’s mentality, but the hardest was finding financing.
An electro-technician, Logou worked two jobs over 15 years and invested all his savings in developing the Foufoumix. He started tinkering with the idea in 1996, patented it in 2000, built a prototype in 2006, and sold the first in 2008. In 2014 the Foufoumix won the US$25 000 Africa Innovation Award for the invention with best business potential.
"The ensuing media visibility was a game changer. Togo’s President congratulated him publicly, starting “a Foufoumix fever fuelled by patriotic pride,” Logou says. Overnight, Logou’s bank credit ballooned from $34 000 to $310 000. “The banks were coming to me!” he laughs.
His fledgling company was able to standardise production, end stock-outs and boost quarterly production from 240 to 1, 000 machines.
The Foufoumix comes in two sizes, for restaurants ($515) and for families ($430). Of the 1 500 sold to date, 65% were for domestic use.
“Foufou’s arduous preparation was an obstacle for mass consumption and overseas marketing,” says Logou.
Now foufou can be offered in restaurants and at weddings, sparing cooks a hard chore.