Factory Update

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Those who actively follow us will already know what our biggest goal for 2020 is: the completion of our new, solar-powered chocolate factory in the rural region of Suhum in Ghana. The construction of the factory, which is expected to be completed in autumn this year, is running quite smoothly despite the current situation. Here we keep you informed about the steps until the completion of the factory:

Week 40: All the hard work has finally paid off

For 40 weeks now, our fingers have been itching, but now the time has finally come and we can write it: We have started the production!

The team on site in Ghana is now working at full speed to produce the first load of chocolate as quickly as possible so that it can be delivered to Germany and thus to your home. The organic certification is currently entering the hot phase and if everything goes according to plan, we will soon be able to ship world-class organic chocolate made in Ghana.

There is still some small work to be done on the construction site, but unfortunately we have to inform you today that this update will probably remain the last factory update from Ghana. We are infinitely grateful to all those involved for giving us such a great support over the last months.

We have always believed in our vision and it is an indescribable feeling to see how the nearly 100 employees enter the factory gates every morning. We have no doubt that – thanks to your help – we can change the dynamics in Suhum, a rural region of Ghana, permanently!

A relief for the entire team: Production can finally start

Week 39: The calm before the (chocolate) storm

One thing in advance: We are sure that we will be able to present you our first chocolate bars produced in the new solar-powered factory in the next Factory Update.

The last tests are currently being conducted on site. The packaging machine provides very good results with our new, biodegradable packaging material. All machines required for production are connected to the power supply system as well as to the water supply system. The moulding machine with its 660 moulds is just waiting to be filled with our chocolate!

Since the power supply is finally working without problems, the air conditioning was installed in the factory buildings and set to work. This is great news for everyone involved, as the temperatures in Ghana are currently around 27 degrees with very high humidity.

We are looking forward to next week and are super excited to share our produced chocolate bars with you!

The ingredients are ready to be turned into chocolate

Week 38: We are connected!

The week is starting off with some nerve-wracking visits at the office of public authorities as the replacement of the ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana) electricity meter is still delayed. But we are well prepared – should it not be replaced in the next few days, we have organised a generator that will provide the Buhler team with sufficient power for the final installations.

Wednesday started with some great news: The measuring device of ECG was finally delivered and directly connected! After we had to wait for several experts from ECG, who had to finish some fine-tuning work on the measuring device, we were finally connected to the electricity grid in the evening. From now on the generators on the construction site were no longer necessary! Closing another important chapter on our journey means a lot to us and all the people involved on construction site.

We also have great news beyond the power grid, as the planning of our in-house restaurant is progressing well. We were able to agree on the layout, meaning construction work can begin tomorrow. The team is very much looking forward to being able to present you pictures from the restaurant soon!

We are now connected to the electricity grid

Week 37: Progress continues – just some minor problems with the power supply

This week’s update is full of exciting news in different sections: We ran additional production tests and the results were really satisfying which means: Yummy chocolate! We are therefore very confident about the start of the production! In order to prepare for this in the best possible way we are currently preparing construction site for the production and the whole crew is cleaning the place with unlimited commitment.

Apart from the preparation, this week is mainly marked by the installation of the cold and hot water supply and the installment of power cables, as most of the machines are already connected and ready for production.

It would not be a real construction site if everything went smoothly. Up to now there is no connection to the electricity grid, because the measuring unit of ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana) was unfortunately damaged. However, this problem will be fixed in the course of next week. Stay tuned!

Machine installation is almost done – cleaning is up next

Week 36: It´s merely a matter of form

Since the arrival of the Bühler expert team, we have been making very fast progress on the construction site. The installation of the moulding line is finished and there is only one belt still waiting to be fixed into position. This will be the final step for the mechanical installation of our chocolate mass production.

We have started to produce chocolate mass in a small refiner in order to commission the moulding line even before the chocolate mass production site is fully operational. This test run will help us optimize our production process in the near future.

The main contractor on site is currently working on last partitions and closing off the open spaces through which the heavy equipment has been lifted. A/C units are being installed and piping works are progressing steadily.

Apart from those great news, we are so happy that the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana has been opened again on Tuesday. This will make the logistics so much easier. Our sleeping routine will benefit from this for sure.

The installation is almost completed

Week 35:  Team work makes the dream work

The week started with some very emotional scenes: Our colleagues who travelled to Ghana were able to meet some old friends again. Over the course of the last weeks and months many new faces joined the fairafric family. Everyone gave their heart and soul for our cause on construction site. Our team from Germany took the time to get to know every new member of Team Ghana after arriving on construction site.

The responsible colleagues from Team Ghana and the experts from Bühler are working together really well and the installation of the machines is progressing very fast. The construction company has completed their work and on the same spot where the container village is standing, our new restaurant will be opened soon. We cannot wait to have lunch with our fellow colleagues from Team Ghana for the first time!

Installation of the machines is progressing really well

Week 34: Ghana calling!

The week starts off with amazing news: The team from Bühler finally arrived in Ghana! They will work on the machines and prepare them for production, which will start soon. Meanwhile on the construction site the machines are being placed according to the experts requirements.

The washing rooms on the complete facility have been finished and our colleagues put a lot of energy in the completion of the window and door works which are almost finished. The piping for hot and cold water is steadily progressing and completion is expected soon.

We are very excited seeing the experts finally arriving in Ghana. We prepared for several weeks and we are very optimistic to share production news with you guys pretty soon.

The machines will be installed soon

Week 33: Ready for take off!

The week begins with extraordinary news: We are flying to Ghana soon! After weeks of planning, giving up on recent plans and thus making new plans we finally found a solution regarding the closed borders due to COVID-19: A fairafric Team will be joined by the responsible staff from Bühler and a flight to Abidjan has been organized. After the arrival in Abidjan the team will then proceed to travel to Ghana. This implies production is about to start very soon! We are totally thrilled.

We have great news on construction site aswell: Work on the septic tank has started and the piping is progressing well. These pipes will make sure that hot and cold water are available in the factory. The EGC (Electricity Company of Ghana) is about to finalize meter installation after which we can tap the national grid. Internet is not working yet but it will within days because the hardware has been installed.

The factory is starting to look like an actual factory

Week 32: We have got a milestone in sight

The side cladding progresses very fast and will be done shortly. More great news? Most brick work is plastered now and the roof is almost finished, just the joints are still being worked on. All machinery is on site and they are about to have a roof above them in a couple of days. It is an unbelievable feeling to have reached this milestone!

The roof is almost completed and everything is in place

Week 31: The concrete slab is on point

The week starts off with mixed feelings. The government announced re-opening of the borders for international air traffic will still take some time. We are working extra shifts to find a solution for this situation. The work on the construction site is progressing really well. The work on the concrete slab is completely finished and the second part of the roof is being installed. The factory is set to be fully roofed within a week!

Concrete works are almost finished

Week 30: Machinery and building materials? Check!

Good news, the last concrete slab will be poured this weekend. The masonry work is 90% completed, so again, completion can be checked off soon. Yay! Buhler has now delivered all the machines and they have also arrived on site. We are now waiting for the last delivery of the remaining building materials, which arrived in Ghana a few days ago. Light at the end of the tunnel!

All machinery is on construction site

Week 29: brick by brick – a factory will rise soon!

The working progress is developing well, furthermore the brick work is near to completion.. The compaction of the ground at the reception, the changing rooms and the chocolaterie are finished. There are still problems regarding the compaction of the clay soil. We are working at full speed to develop a solution. In fact, the work is going so well at the moment, we urgently need new materials so we can continue without any delays. Keep your fingers crossed that things will proceed in the same way!

The brick work is almost completed.

Week 28: We (almost) have a roof above our heads!

The week is starting off with great news, since the non-isolated part of the roof will be finished by the weekend! The isolated part will follow as soon as the required materials are on site. The security towers are almost finished, even the toilets were installed this week. Preparations for the installation of the fresh water tank next week are coming next. We had minor problems with the compaction of the soil, which is necessary to offset the high amount of clay in the soil. The solution: Additional netting fibres are used in the concrete slab to prevent future cracking. So the week went without any incidents worth mentioning. On we go!

The factory is slowly but steadily covered

Week 27: Brighten up!

In a few months, the first chocolate bars will be produced in the new, solar-powered factory, so preparations are still in full swing. The compaction of the plant has been completed thus the concrete slab can be poured shortly. Since we are not waiting idly for this, the surrounding walls have already been installed in the meantime. We have also been connected to the electricity grid this week, which will further advance the work.

Our factory site is now connected to the main grid.

Week 26: Happy people – good working environment

The atmosphere on construction site is very positive, because the steel frames are almost completely installed. Slowly but steadily it becomes evident which dimension our new, solar-powered factory will have. Although there have been some delays in compacting the platform for the concrete slab, we can begin with pouring the slab next week.

The steel frames are almost completely set up

Week 25: tests, more tests and some good news

The week began with the confirmation that both Buhler and LoeschPack tests on the machines were positive. Thus they can be shipped to our factory shortly. Finally! All suppliers are on schedule and many containers will be welcomed to our site in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, some essential parts were not shipped and now this work has to get done by local builders. The Buhler machines are expected on site by the end of August, so production can start on time in fall! Great news!

The factory starts to shape

Week 24: Life cannot be planned 100% – neither can a factory

As a result of heavy rainfall and the still very present restrictions due to Covid-19, there are unfortunately delays of several weeks. The first chocolate bars are therefore expected to roll off the belt in mid-September. On the construction site, things are still progressing well, since the first girders have just been installed. Meanwhile, Buhler is packing our containers in Germany and Switzerland and preparing them for transport to Ghana. The planned start of the journey: Next week.

The first steel beams rise up on the construction site

Week 23: The foundation was (almost) laid

The week was again marked by heavy rainfall. But this could not really slow down the work on site. Consequently, a clear picture is slowly emerging on the construction site, as the foundation is nearing completion! Incredible news. The first containers with steel girders have also arrived at the construction site. Within the next two weeks, Buhler and LoeschPack will send us the machines for our factory. So the week went very satisfactorily and you can slowly see the big picture.

The foundation is almost completely laid and a clear picture emerges on the construction site

Week 22: Further work on the foundation – and once again Mother Nature

During this week, further work was done to eliminate the clay problem. Our 70 employees are constantly on site and in the process of integrating the gravel layer and completing the drainage canal. Our steel frames arrived at the port on time and as expected. Unfortunately there were again unavoidable delays this week: heavy rainfall slowed down the work considerably and made it more difficult. But even the rainfall has something positive: our drainage system is working.

Even in spite of heavy rainfall, work continues on the construction site

Week 20/21: Waiting for the opening of the border – and again and again this clay

The Buhler machines will arrive within the planned time frame. However, there is currently the problem that the airlines do not yet allow any international flights into Ghana. Yet an external team is urgently needed to install the machines. We are working hard to find solutions and prepare everything necessary. The good news is that we have already assembled the team so that we can start as soon as we get the go-ahead.

Great progress on the construction site despite delays

Away from the problem of entry, an old problem reappears: The clay content of the soil is worse than feared. To protect the building in the long term, it was decided to mix 25cm of gravel under the building platform. This will also impact the planning of other areas, which will increase the costs. Our steel frames will arrive next week and will be brought to the construction site as soon as the construction of the foundation is completed. There is great news regarding the construction of our security tower: Excavations have started and should be completed on time.

There were also other training sessions on hygiene and handling of the corona rules. The topic should and must not be neglected despite the daily routine. The safety of our employees is paramount!

Week 19: Construction can finally begin – or can it?

After the foundations have been laid, as mentioned above, we can finally start with the construction. The partner company “Group Five”, which is mainly responsible for the construction, is now on site and should start work. However, before we can start, Mother Nature seems to try playing a trick on us. According to our partner, the ground on which our factory is to be built may contain too much clay. We will have to carry out further tests. Worst case? We have to expect a significant delay. But we are starting with a lot of energy and we will not be thrown off track. Nevertheless, there is also some news beyond the factory floor: One of our suppliers, Buhler Germany, has informed us that the molding line for our factory may be delayed. So the week did not go perfectly. Nevertheless, we remain positive. As the saying goes: Rome was not built in a day either!

Despite some problems everything is going according to plan

The next week starts with the ever prevalent topic of the clay content in our soil. To our relief, we have found out through soil samples that the problem is not a real problem after all. The work on the foundation is already in full swing. The plastering of the inner side of the wall, which will be around our site, is now completed. Great work, considering the length of the fence! The work on the outside is now starting. The small delay from the previous week will be made up by our motivated colleagues on site. Great news from Buhler Germany is also reaching us: The delays announced in the previous week can be averted after all. The completion of the drainage system is scheduled for the near future. This is important to protect the building from the potential storm-related damage.

Week 18: Electricity and running water are also the basics when building a factory

Before the foundation of the chocolate factory can even be built, the huge construction site must be supplied with both electricity and running water. This was guaranteed at the beginning of May, which means we can finally move from the planning phase to the implementation phase.

Finally, we can start: Our team is ready

Week 17: Finally! fairafric is a free trade zone company

After weeks of to and fro, thanks to the generous help of the office of Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo, we were able to bag our last outstanding permit: The Free Zone Company Registration. Now the bureaucratic preparations have finally been completed, allowing us to concentrate fully on building our factory. A relieving feeling.

Week 15-16: It finally starts! The construction site becomes our workplace

After weeks of talks and tough negotiations we can finally get started! We start with the ground work and land surveying in Suhum. All people involved are full of energy to build a state-of-the-art, solar-powered chocolate factory. We take another look at what this means for the people and the region. A great feeling.

Die Landvermessungen sind in vollem Gange
Land surveys are in full swing

Week 14: The effects of COVID-19 are also visible in Ghana

Almost all countries worldwide have imposed a curfew in the wake of the novel corona virus. The government in Ghana is also imposing such conditions, suspending flights and closing the borders. We must hope for a rapid improvement in the situation. The safety of our employees on site is of course our first priority.

Week 11-13: Negotiations with local developers in the final phase, we will start soon

It was clear to us from the beginning and also a criterion to work with local construction companies. After several rounds of negotiations, we found suitable partners, a joint team consisting of South African and Ghanaian construction companies. Now the ground work can start quite quickly. So we see the light at the end of the tunnel and we are optimistic to be able to present great news with the next update!

Week 8-10: approval after approval – we’re making progress

Our preliminary environmental report has been completed and submitted to the appropriate department. Hopefully we will be able to put the matter behind us after the review. During a personal visit to the Regional Director of the responsible planning office, we made it clear once again how urgently we need the approval of the Ministry for Environment and Science. After we have clarified the financial and accounting aspects, everything will be put in place. We also had to clarify a few things with the tax office. So we are still working our way through a mountain of bureaucratic regulations. The anticipation to finally start the construction increases daily.

Week 4-7: We are allowed to build! Ooh, more bureaucracy!

We have received permission to build a factory for business purposes at our planned location. This is an important milestone on our way to the first solar-powered chocolate factory in Suhum. Of course, we also have to consider the environment, which is why it is being clarified exactly in which area our factory may be built and how. Permits from the Ministry of the Environment and Science are also required for this. We are confident that we will receive these soon. We still need a preliminary environmental report, which is why we are currently looking for an independent auditor to draft it for us. Confidence is spreading that the bureaucratic steps will soon be completed.

Week 1-3: We are building! Oh, first of all, bureaucracy

Before we can get started, we first have to register the planned construction and obtain various permits. In addition to food permits, a permit from the Ghanaian fire brigade must also be obtained. Furthermore, it has to be clarified whether our planned location may be used for industrial purposes at all. For this purpose, an appointment has been scheduled at the next town meeting in Suhum.