Lessons learned and values embraced from 25 years in Africa

Since we began in 1989 sourcing cashews from the farmgate in Nigeria, Africa has remained a key strategic thrust within our global agricultural operations, not only for exports and imports but increasingly for domestic production. Over the past 25 years, we have invested S$1.77 billion in our agricultural supply chains across the continent (up to 30 June 2014) and now have operations in 24 African countries. This long heritage of working in Africa, coupled with our global experience garnered from Asia, Europe and the Americas, has given us a deep understanding of the potential, as well as the diverse challenges presented along each part of the agricultural value chain. For anyone seeking to invest in Africa we offer these lessons ...

Invest in local talent

In the early years it was not easy to recruit people with the right skills because of our small size, but we created a pool of locals and expats that helped us to establish the business, many of whom are our leaders today. Managing complex supply chains in challenging environments where roads may be non-existent or power intermittent is no mean feat! We remain committed towards hiring African nationals because it is a sustainable way of growing business, but it is not an easy one, especially as there is always another company looking to poach! Therefore anyone investing in Africa needs to make sure that they can offer motivating career opportunities as well as a competitive package.

Today Olam works closely with a number of institutions and business schools to recruit and develop good people, including the Lagos Business School and the University of Cape Town, as well as our own managerial programmes in countries such as Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Tanzania.

Add value in origin

Shortening the supply chain from farmer to processor by investing in local processing brings a host of benefits. Not only does it help to avoid transportation bottlenecks and quality deterioration, but farmers are motivated by seeing a ready market for their crops; communities in rural areas thrive through additional employment opportunities; and international customers are satisfied as traceability is strengthened and carbon footprints reduced.

Among Olam's 25 manufacturing facilities in Africa is our recently opened state-of-the --art cocoa processing unit at San Pedro in Cote d'Ivoire. The plant is contributing to the development of a wide range of...

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