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Zimbabwean firm rolls into global cigar market

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 02:26s - Published
Zimbabwean firm rolls into global cigar market

Zimbabwean firm rolls into global cigar market

A recently launched business is hoping to capitalize on Zimbabwe's famed tobacco to take on established players in the global cigar market.

David Doyle reports.

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When entrepreneur Shep Mafundikwa set up Zimbabwe's first hand-rolled cigar business he named it after the world famous Victoria Falls.

The local name Mosi-Oa-Tunya - meaning "the smoke that thunders." For Mafundikwa, who returned to Zimbabwe in 2019 after 15 years in the United States, it's a signal of intent, to take on the big names of the well-established export market.

"We have solid interest right now from Romania and from Vietnam and we have got inquiries from Dubai.

So for me and for the team, we want our brand on the international market as soon as possible." As well as being famed for its economic troubles - annual inflation hit over 785% in May - Zimbabwe's tobacco is also renowned.

It's exported mainly to China and Europe where it's used as a flavoring by global cigarette makers.

For Mafundikwa, that was the starting point.

"I thought there was something unique that could be done here and that's how the idea and dream was born." He recruited Elias Lopez, who has worked for cigar makers Arturo Fuente and Davidoff, to train an all-woman team in the art of rolling cigars by hand.

The 52-year-old from the Dominican Republic claims these cigars will compete with the best in the world such Habanos and Montecristo from Cuba.

But for the time being the competition is a little closer to home.

Bongani Cigars, launched last year in Mozambique, is also seeking to crack the luxury cigar market.

Mafundikwa also wants to develop a cigar market locally by making affordable brands.

In Harare, where Mosi-Oa-Tunya is based, Roy Ndudzo is sharing some of the cigars with friends over bottles of wine.

"Traditionally I'm just a cigarette smoker but I decided to take this on a trial basis and I'm surprisingly enjoying it.

It has got this flavour within it that I don't get from my normal cigarettes." In Zimbabwe, at least, it seems the "smoke that thunders" has gone down a storm.




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