How do we feed Africa’s rapidly growing population? At AgDevCo they believe that a business-driven way of farming is essential. “By investing in agricultural companies we help them to scale up, thereby creating jobs and increasing food production,” said AgDevCo’s Senior Investment Manager, Ismail Sentissi.
Having started operations just a decade ago, AgDevCo has rapidly grown into an agricultural investment fund with over USD 135m of committed funds and operations in eight African countries. “We provide patient capital agricultural companies in the form of equity or long-term debt, for periods that can go up to 10 years,” explained Ismail Sentissi. “There are many commercial agriculture companies which have great potential but no access to long-term finance to develop their businesses. We want to plug this gap and know we can achieve social impact through these projects. Our main aim is to develop commercial agriculture in Africa as a way to achieve social impact,” said Mr. Sentissi.
DFID (The Department for International Development of the UK), is one of the key financiers behind AgDevCo. AgDevCo makes commercial investments of between USD 1m and USD 10m. Any returns on equity or debt investments are recycled into new projects. The company has established offices in Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda , Ghana and Sierra Leone. “We are now expanding into francophone West Africa as well,” said Mr. Sentissi, himself of North-African/French origin. “Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso are high on our wish list.”
AgDevCo also develops its own greenfield projects and is now inviting agricultural companies to come and invest at a fertile 10,000 ha plot of land in Northern Ghana.
Since 2013, AgDevCo has developed a greenfield agricultural project at Babator, Northern Ghana. “Although we are an investment fund and by no means a farming company, we are now involved in setting up the largest commercial irrigated farming area of Ghana,” Mr. Sentissi said. “We do this because we have come across a very arable plot of land at Babator, in a bend in the Black Volta river, where there is an excellent opportunity for large-scale commercial farming. In three years, we have turned this land into a bankable project: completed all studies, registered a land lease, obtained all permits, and developed a 350 ha irrigated pilot since 2016. Babator is an excellent opportunity to grow a variety of crops (grains, seed crops, fruits). Committed investors will also be able to obtain funding from AgDevCo to develop the land.”
Mr. Sentissi then envisioned how the future of the Babator project should look like. “Ten years from now, I expect 5,000 ha of land to be irrigated, of which 3,500 ha are owned by companies producing grains, fruits and food crops, while 1,500 ha are being farmed on by small-scale farmers, that grow for the neighbouring nucleus farms. In other words, we will be looking at the largest farming area in Ghana. Produce can potentially be exported, although we also see many opportunities for processing locally, at breweries, in the poultry sector or at juicing plants, thus adding value at Babator itself. By 2030, the entire area will have been positively transformed with a thriving commercial agricultural hub and improved livelihoods for thousands of smallholder farmers.”