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Rwanda’s Investor of the Year Sets New Goals

by Daniel Sabiiti
3:00 pm

Darshana Joshi(Right), the Executive Director of Africa Improved Foods (AIF) poses with the RDB investor of the year award

On January 19, 2018, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) awarded ten local business leaders during the 5th edition of the RDB Business Excellence Awards 2017.

KT Press’ Daniel Sabiiti caught up with the Darshana Joshi, the Executive Director of Africa Improved Foods (AIF) – Africa’s sole supplier of fortified foods which also emerged as best investor company after fourteen months of its establishment in Rwanda with a $60million investment.

Below are the excerpts

How did you choose to come to invest in Rwanda?

Three years ago, the CEO of DSM a Dutch multinational, one of the leaders in world nutrition went to Davos and identified nutrition as one of the key sustainable development goals and several issues around malnutrition worldwide.

He wanted to do business that would create social impact and through partners, we reached out to relevant people in the public sector interested in the same goals.

Eventually, a consortium of Royal DSM, Dutch development bank (FMO), DFID Impact Acceleration Facility managed by CDC Group plc and the investment arm of the World Bank (IFC) came together and Rwanda emerged as prominent because of the numbers of malnutrition.

The government of Rwanda was most pro-active in nutrition as one of the sustainable goals and wanted to do something about it.

 It took us three years planning and building this plant. The site was completed in November 2016 and by December 2016 we had started production and we have been producing for 14 months now.

Tell us about your $60 million investment, how far along has this investment come?

$45m was used in setting up the plant and $15m used in hiring staff and setting up operations. In less than a year of construction, we were fully functional. Right now we are at over 100 percent capacity which means that we can do 45,000tonnes of the products we intend to produce and we can produce more than that so far.

25,000tonnes of this product is supplied to World Food Programme (WFP) refugee programme which has been exported to Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan feeding about 1.5million people.

For the government of Rwanda, we have a feeding programme with over 5000 tonnes of nutritiousShisha Kibondo products supplied to feed vulnerable mothers and children (between six months and two years at multiple health centers.)

Two Commercial products (Nutri Mama and Nutri Toto) have already been launched and we are launching the third one (Nutri Family) this week. This is a success to us, according to and beyond our plan.

Where and why do you supply your products in Africa and not elsewhere?

East Africa requires a lot of this relief products but WFP used to import these products from Italy and Germany and send to refugee camps in the conflict countries in the region. The plant being in the region has replaced this trend and the initiative is that we want aid for Africa but it has to be produced locally. Now we want to supply products for Africans by African farmers and people.

So far, what has your experience of Doing Business in Rwanda been like?

We don’t make any profit on the products we supply to the government which makes it very affordable and through distribution, it reaches to the mothers and children.

To make a product like this you need soya, corn, blends and packaging and we give these products at cost according to the agreement with Rwanda.

What does this 5th Edition of the RDB Business Excellence Award mean to you?

It is not just the investment we have but the impact it has to the social and economic aspects. The fact that we are a social and economic enterprise and exporting out of Rwanda we will end up being one of the biggest exporters.

We have created jobs for 300 here at the plant in addition to over 9,000 farmers selling grains to the plant.

We didn’t know the meaning of the award but we have been doing what we are good at and implementing the goals we set. However, it is a good feeling to get the award.

How do you plan to maintain this momentum that you have set?

It was not easy to set up the plant but we are aggressive and determined to meet our goals in Rwanda, not the awards. This year we are launching a new commercial product, do more farmer’s training and sourcing and create awareness around nutrition.

We have to maintain high quality grain. This means we are looking for high grades raw materials. The highest contribution of raw materials is imported while local farmers barely meet our demand. We expect from farmers at least 30,000 tons annually through sourcing.