Background: The production of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) from biomass provides an alternative pathway for many commercial chemicals and polymers particularly for countries with high insolation such as sub-Saharan Africa.Objective: The goal is continuous or semi-continuous dehydration of glucose and fructose to 5-HMF over a reusable castalyst in a process which is commmercial viable. Method: We deploy a separable and resuable catalyst, a low volatility solvent and reactive vacuum distillation. Results: Using a sulfated zirconia (SZ) catalyst in 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride [BMIM]Cl ionic liquid as solvent, we are able to separate the product by reactive vacuum distillation and obtain yields for 5-HMF of 82% and 65% at a 5 g experimental scale using fructose and glucose as substrates in a 2 h reaction time at 180 oC. The ionic liquid and SZ exhibited high activity when recycled for five successive trials. Conclusion: The low volatility solvent and solid catalyst allow for reactive vacuum distillation taking the sequence of steps from biomass such as Cassava to 5-HMF closer to commercial viability.