There they were…I’d popped down to the local supermarket and had just about crossed out all the items on my list…All except for the instant noodles (the type “gifted cooks” like me love as they take 3 minutes to “prepare”). Upon reaching the relevant section, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. I might live in Southern Africa but I’ve invested a great deal of time to know about the various products and services that cater to the needs of Africa’s 1 billion consumers. I began doing this obsessively in high school and never stopped, it’s what I live for!

Golden Penny is a fine example of what African companies are capable of producing. It’s part of a vertically integrated Nigerian conglomerate called Flour Mills. With a rich history stretching back to 1960, an army of over 5 000 employees and an annual turnover marching towards $1 billion, the company has the competence and scale to benefit from serving Africa’s largest nation. But even after looking at the sheer scale that Flour Mills plays at, how did noodles made in Nigeria make it to Zimbabwe. Surely this is impossible given the shallow conjectures that have flavoured a great deal of “Africa Rising” articles:

  •  Nigeria receives so little power that it imports the bulk of it’s domestic requirements including petroleum (yes…it is the continent’s largest producer of Oil). Tales of Dangote Industries are simply a statistical anomaly we’re told – hence the focus on his wealth and very little coverage of the well oiled machine he operates.

  • Being as it is at 12%, Intra African trade cannot take place sufficiently because the infrastructure situation in African is so terrible that transporting a pencil across a border post would be a nightmare!

In light of the above, imagine my surprise upon seeing Golden Penny Noodles (a very positive surprise I must add). I  double checked to confirm their country of origin as Naija (common slang for Nigeria). All in all they looked totally legit and l doubt very much that they’re an elaborate scheme from “The Far East”. The lingering question on my mind since then is very simply:

How did a consignment of noodles travel from Nigeria to Zimbabwe, profitably?

As part of my burning need to answer the question above, I began by meeting the owner of the supermarket. The good news is that he helped with the following piece of intel:

 The noodles are purchased from a Harare based wholesale outlet. It’s run by a cheerful trader that is likely of Nigerian/ West African origins. 

I’m going to be visiting the wholesaler soon to add flesh to the skeleton. He might oblige to share info or could refuse to divulge his ‘trade secrets’. In any case, this makes for a highly interesting case that I’m inviting you to be a part of. The diagram below has 4 modes of transport (A,B,C & D) and two potential routes (1: via the sea  2. across borders):


How do you think the noodles got to Harare? An example of your answer could be 1B+A or D2.

 Please share, it’ll be interesting to compare your responses with what actually transpired…


Clinton Mutambo is the founder of Follow him on twitter @cmutambo, catch him on Facebook or simply drop him an email.



  1. I’m betting everything on just D… but I’ll add that it could actually be a D by bus.

    Travelling between Zimbabwe and Malawi by bus I have ridden in a buss were half of it (fro the middle to the back) is filled with salt for example. When I asked I was told it makes sense to use the bus for that as on some trips half the thing is empty…

    1. lol! Yes, African traders use the good ol bus system to ship goods in incredible ways. If bigger traders have that kind of determination, Africa will fly!

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