Agroserv Industrie, the first exit of Sinergi Burkina. Through Siaka Sanon’s interview, let’s see the evolution of this agribusiness company supported by Sinergi Burkina between 2017 et 2022.
Could you tell us more about the beginnings of your entrepreneurship journey?
Siaka Sanon : At the same time as studying information technology, I helped my mother in the management of the family business, ESKF, which specialized in the commercialization of cereals, in particular maize, in Burkina Faso. After obtaining my DUT in 1997, I decided to continue along this path, as I wanted to participate in the family entrepreneurial adventure. Later, in 2008, I took the company’s lead with the will to reinforce it. The company then became Agroserv.
Could you tell us more about your meeting with Sinergi Burkina and the inputs of this partnership?
Siaka Sanon : I heard about Sinergi Burkina at the end of 2015. I thought it was the opportunity to have a partner having experience in business structuring. We made contact, and approximately one year later, we began the partnership.
The main element of this collaboration has been the formalization of Agroserv. The company has since changed legal status and is now called Agroserv Industrie. Sinergi Burkina has supported us efficiently in this process, encouraging me to hire agents, pay taxes, and formalize jobs. The structuration has not been without difficulties: we had to change our ways our doing, and some employees didn’t understand or even rejected it. Yet, today it is a solid credibility pledge for the company and our employees.
This partnership has also brought visibility to Agroserv. I am thinking in particular of the visit of His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and the presence of the President of Faso, Head of State of Burkina Faso, at the launch of activities in 2018, which was widely reported locally.
Lastly, I would say that today, following Sinergi Burkirna’s support, it’s easier for us to discuss with banks while looking for funds.
As it happens, you closed a new financing round this year. Could you tell us more?
Siaka Sanon : Our company will be supported by many investors including Investisseurs & Partenaires that has higher investment tickets. I&P being a partner of Sinergi Burkina, I participated in the 2018 Entrepreneurs’ training seminar organized by I&P and the Club Africain des Entrepreneurs. Then, I had the opportunity to present to I&P’s team and the attending investors the extension projects I was willing to implement. Many appreciated my will to galvanize the maize transformation and commercialization local market. Today, in 2022, I&P, Oikocredit, BIO, and AGEFI are the new players who will help me with my projects.
I want to diversify Agroserv Industrie at various levels. First, we would like to extend our offer by adding a new leguminous plant, soy. At the same time, we would like to expand our customer base. To do so, we want to develop our transformation capacities with specialized machines that will allow us to offer quality products such as nutritious infant flour, pre-cooked semolina, or crisps.
What was the impact of Covid-19 on your activities?
Siaka Sanon : Agroserv has been strongly impacted. For three months, we had to stop our activities.
Yet, the crisis has strengthened my will to develop specialized transformation units to answer the quality product demand. At the same time, and in a resilience logic, we started considering more maize flour production. We used to produce them with the same machines that we used for the Gritz dedicated to breweries. The quality of the flour was lower, as the process wasn’t suitable. We then understood that we had to develop our units to convince buyers.
Do the current crises, that is to say, the security situation in Burkina and the war in Ukraine, affect your activities?
Siaka Sanon : The security situation in Burkina does have an impact on our activities, in particular concerning supplies of maize, our raw material. Due to the lack of capacity to grow sorghum and millet, the demand for maize is rising sharply among people in the North of the country. Some farmers now refuse to sell us their productions, as they believe it is easier to sell them to local traders and door-to-door salespersons rather than to their local cooperative that establishes with Agroserv.
At the same time, the war in Ukraine is accompanied by increasing prices, particularly for metals. The price of the equipment we want to buy is therefore higher than expected, as well as the increase in transport costs. Our budget is, therefore, very tight.
Considering these difficulties, what drives you to follow your projects?
Siaka Sanon : We contribute to feeding Africa, which is quite challenging as local conditions are difficult. If some think importing agricultural products from big European multinational corporations is easier, I firmly believe that Africa must feed itself.
Of course, producing in Africa for Africans is a challenge, yet it is also an opportunity. And this also involves funding and the possibility of identifying serious partners who understand these issues to support us.