Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Social Business

SOAFIARY: the case of a socially responsible company in Madagascar

A company can be much more than just an economic player. It can play a significant societal role, as demonstrated by the Malagasy company Soafiary. Since its creation in 2006,…

A company can be much more than just an economic player. It can play a significant societal role, as demonstrated by the Malagasy company Soafiary. Since its creation in 2006, this agrobusiness company has integrated its social commitment at the heart of its business model.

 

Founded in 2006 by the Malagasy promoter Malala Rabenoro, SOAFIARY is specialized in the sourcing, processing and commercialization of cereals and leguminous plants on local and international markets. The company begins to diversify its activities in 2017. The company sets up a feed mill unit and launches the SOADIO project, a contract farming project run in collaboration with the diocese of the Vakinankaratra region, located in the highlands of Madagascar. The company’s operating site is located in this rural area, known as “the farmer” of Madagascar.

The Vakinankaratra region is not spared by the precarious situation that prevails in the country, with an extremely low literacy rate, an infrastructure deficit and a high poverty rate. As an actor committed to the development of its region and its country, Soafiary aim to address these social and economic challenges.

 

Promoting employment among an underprivileged and undereducated population

The local population lives mainly from subsistence agriculture or livestock farming. They often find it difficult to produce enough to ensure self-sufficiency, let alone to develop their activity. Due to a lack of education, they are not eligible for qualified positions in the business world.

Soafiary is committed to facilitating the professional integration of this population. The company employs nearly 200 people, most of whom are locals. They are engaged in field work, manual sorting of legumes and packaging of products. The company has made the choice to do the sorting and packaging activities manually, even if automation is possible. This choice makes it possible to create more jobs.

Soafiary’s contribution also takes the form of financial assistance in the form of loans granted to employees, to help them develop another income-generating activity. Doing so, Soafiary provides the surrounding community with the opportunity to improve their economic condition through access to dual employment.

Soafiary is committed to facilitating the professional integration of a local population that lives mainly from subsistence agriculture or livestock farming.

Accompanying employees on literacy and hygiene issues

Soafiary’s employees include 21% who are illiterate, 46% who have completed primary school and 25% who have completed lower secondary education. Hiring poorly educated people from the rural world is a real commitment on the part of the company, which has put in place extensive support to enable them to assimilate key production techniques, learn hygiene measures and basic skills such as reading and writing.

Soafiary regularly conducts awareness sessions on hygiene issues for its employees, including the correct use of the sanitary block and water hygiene. Regarding literacy, the company focuses on teaching employees to read and write so that they can check their pay slips, by identifying and validating information concerning them, in particular their first and last names, and then signing it if the slip is satisfactory to them. This has created a climate of trust and exchange within the company.

These measures may seem basic but their implementation is not easy and can be time consuming. The production director, Ms. Agnès Randrianampizafy, plays a key role in their implementation thanks to her background as a teacher. As she explains, “It takes good teaching skills, patience, and discipline”.

 

Supporting and training small producers trough the Soadio project

The agribusiness sector is at the crossroads of several serious issues: the integration of small producers, environmental protection, product quality and price competitiveness, all this in a highly competitive international market.

Soafiary is trying to respond to these challenges through its Soadio project, a model of responsible contract farming that consists of training small producers and providing them with the agricultural equipment and inputs needed to farm the 4,100 Ha of land belonging to the Diocese of the Vakinankaratra region. Since the project launch in 2017, 380 Ha have been exploited and the entire production is purchased by Soafiary.

The project represents an important socio-economic driving force for the region. It aims at improving the living conditions of small producers in Morarano, a rural commune located 200 km from the Soafiary exploitation site, where the Diocese’s lands are located. It also allows for the inclusion of small producers in Soafiary’s value chain, who now ensure the company’s supply.

This inclusive partnership between Soafiary and the Diocese is a step towards greater social and humanitarian cohesion. This is a prerequisite for launching various projects: setting up an irrigation system, strengthening the fields to combat erosion, strengthening the basic health center by providing medical equipment, improving the village’s only school by extending classrooms, supporting agricultural training centers, to name but a few.

 

Soafiary demonstrates that integrating social commitments at the heart of its business model can be beneficial for the company. This approach has generated greater commitment from its employees, but also enabled the company to build a sustainable model of contract farming that secures its supply volume while meeting the challenges of product quality and traceability.

 

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Entrepreneurship for a better tomorrow in Guinea

Kouramoudou Magassouba presents the NGO Horizons d’Afrique, which he launched in 2017 to promote social entrepreneurship among Guinean youth.  Entrepreneurship is not – or should not be – limited to…

Kouramoudou Magassouba presents the NGO Horizons d’Afrique, which he launched in 2017 to promote social entrepreneurship among Guinean youth. 

Entrepreneurship is not – or should not be – limited to wealth creation alone. Starting an entrepreneurial project is above all about passion, creativity, strongly believing in a project. The NGO Horizons d’Afrique has been promoting this message since 2017 to Guinean students, so as to train a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are aware of social and environmental issues.

I launched The NGO a few years after my return to Guinea, in a context of latent economic and social crisis (high unemployment rate, especially among young people, illegal emigration). In 2010, I started teaching at a private university in Conakry while working at the Central Bank of the Republic of Guinea. Working directly with young scholars, confused about their futures and very much in need of advice, opened my eyes and pushed me to take action. Because if some government initiatives exist in this area, they are largely insufficient for the moment…

With former students and banking sector professionals, we launched Horizons of Africa to promote the learning of entrepreneurial skills. We do everything in our power to ensure that students are better prepared to enter the entrepreneurial world when they leave school. this cannot be learned in a day!

 

Promoting Entrepreneurial Spirit in Guinea

Horizons d’Afrique’s ambition is to build a community of at least 1,000 young entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs by 2025, capable of creating sustainable jobs.

We say “intrapreneurs” because we are aware that not everyone can or wants to be an entrepreneur. However, we believe anyone can develop entrepreneurial qualities, such as creativity, innovation, or organization. We can offer employees the tools and opportunities to create and innovate. In other words, we can train them to act as entrepreneurs within the company.

 

Launching impactful companies in Guinea

Our programs are open to all young people. They are designed to promote entrepreneurial qualities and values that we believe are fundamental for the society as a whole. Today there are about 6,000 new businesses created yearly in Guinea, but most of them are individual companies and do not create any jobs.

We advocate three key values in particular:

  • Empathy: we encourage students to put themselves in the shoes of others and imagine possible solutions to Guinea’s major social and environmental challenges.
  • Optimism: we promote students’ empowerment and “positive mental attitude”
  • Performance: to create positive impacts on the long-run, a company must be sustainable. The economic model of the company must therefore be viable and generate wealth.

 

Developing programs that address local needs

Horizons d’Afrique has developed a range of programs, depending on the target audiences (high schools, universities, technical schools…). They all provide support to young people who are starting (or are willing to start) an entrepreneurial project. We have built a strong network and we are now able to offer shared resources and skills. For example, we have set up a common technical team (accounting, communication) for the several startups supported by our programs.

With the technical assistance of Pierre ALZINGRE, founder of the Visionari Agency and Start’Up Lycée in France, we concluded in June the first edition of our program “Start’Up Lycée GouTina”, specifically dedicated to high school students. Ten public and private institutions took part in this competition. The students worked throughout the year on entrepreneurial initiatives related to the Sustainable Development Goals. Each working group (made up of ten high school students, including at least four girls per group) was accompanied by a team of three people: a teacher, an NGO staff member and a professional entrepreneur.

 

Conclusion

Throughout my academic and professional career, in Guinea, Morocco and France, I witnessed on many occasions the importance of educating and training young people, so that this new generation can do something constructive for their lives and the development of their country. With African Horizons, we are working as closely as possible with young people to make this possible. Sharing skills and experience is essential. Knowledge is only knowledge if it shared with other people!

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