In 1993, Sanoussi Diakite from Senegal, a professor of mechanical engineering, manufactured a husking machine that produces 5 kg of fonio in 8 minutes. Before this invention, it took about 2 hours to pound 2 kg of fonio. It is now possible to produce about 75 kg in 2 hours, thereby increasing the efficiency and productivity by 3,650%. This shows the impact and importance of the mechanization of agriculture to improve productivity in Africa.
With financial aid from the American foundation ADF (African Development Foundation), tests were conducted on the ground in Mali, Guinea and Senegal from 1995 to 1997. These tests proved successful.
More than 20 machines are now operational in several Western African countries. Sanoussi Diakite has patented his invention with the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) under the following reference number: 9944 OAPI. Once an order is placed, Sanoussi Diakite can start manufacturing the fonio husking machine and prices vary depending on the type of model chosen. The electrical fonio husking machine costs around €1,219 (800,000 CFA francs) while the thermal husking machine (oil or gasoline) costs about €2,286 (1.5 million CFA francs).
Fonio production that had declined in most Western African countries is now likely to increase thanks to the husking machine. The production could probably increase significantly if the machine could be mass produced. This is one of Sanoussi Diakite’s objectives as he is seeking funds worth about €520,000 (341 million CFA francs) to set up a factory. Given that most Western African countries consume fonio, it is therefore a market of about 16 countries that could be supplied with the fonio husking machine.
Fonio is mainly consumed as porridge or couscous. But it can also be transformed into pasta, dumplings and fritters. Thus, beyond the mass production of the fonio husking machine, there is probably a bigger economic opportunity in the agro-processing of fonio. As a result, fonio-based pasta, dumplings, fritters, porridges and couscous could be sold in modern packaging that will guarantee food safety.
Sanoussi Diakite has won several awards thanks to his invention. He was awarded the International Rolex Prize in Geneva (Switzerland) in 1996 and the first Grand Prix du Salon Africain de l'invention in 1997 in Dakar. In 2008, he was one of the laureates of the Tech Awards in the Health Award category. The ceremony took place in Silicon Valley in the United States. Although he was not the winner in this category, in which case he would have won the sum $50,000 (about 24 million CFA francs); his invention still drew the attention of the jury. Indeed, out of 68 inventions identified around the world by the Tech Awards for the 2008 ceremony, only 25 were considered remarkable, including Sanoussi Diakite’s invention.