Interview: Kais Marzouki
What are the main trends you foresee in the consumer markets in West Africa and Africa as a whole?
KAIS MARZOUKI: Overall, Africa will tend to move from a low-cost mindset to an aspirational one. There is an expanding population, mostly young, that will continue to grow both in size and income. Urbanisation is a trend that will continue, and the long-term prospects for sustained economic growth and consumption are positive, which will lead to increased connectivity and more information on available choices. Unfortunately, an increasing number of people in the region are suffering from the double burden of malnutrition, with health problems arising from over-nutrition, such as obesity, and from under-nutrition, such as deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. As a result, consumers are increasingly looking for convenient yet affordable, nutritious foods that are manufactured in hygienic conditions. People are becoming more aware of nutritional aspects as well as health risks. This will result in higher standards in the fast-moving consumer goods segment; players that incorporate nutritional improvements into their products will be in a better position, and will complement efforts that are being made by governments to improve standards of living.
Establishing regional quality and environmental standards will increase trade across the region; showing results in emissions management and energy consumption will become a priority and businesses will need to strive for compliance. Another aspect increasing the options available to the final consumer will be increased intra-regional trade that is being driven by ECOWAS.
How are private producers working to support farmers and local sourcing in West Africa?
MARZOUKI: Agriculture is a key sector to develop in the region, and it has become a priority for many governments in West Africa. The main challenge facing businesses using locally sourced raw materials is the availability of quality products and exodus of farmers to urban areas. If governments increase local sourcing, economies will be less vulnerable to currency fluctuations and supply times will be shortened. The empowerment of rural development and farmers is essential.
Shared value, as defined by Porter and Kramer, involves generating economic and societal benefits for society where the company operates, and for the company’s shareholders. It needs to be created all across the supply chain in order to increase the long-term sustainability and achieve economic success. In the future, successful companies will support the development of communities along with business, as both suppliers and consumers are important. Sustainability and training practices, whether in technical, environmental or even financial aspects, will benefit from private sector participation across crops such as coffee, cocoa, grains and cassava, which makes both business and social sense. There are many similar initiatives aimed at reinforcing the collaboration between the private sector and rural communities on the field. There is also a wide range of NGOs working across the agricultural supply chain with the aim of ensuring that fair trade and labour practices are implemented and sustained.
What sort of infrastructure can help improve agro-industrial production?
MARZOUKI: There are still infrastructure challenges, such as power, water supply and roads, though investment flows to the region are contributing to their improvement. Building digital infrastructure is also key, as it can help all along the value chain, from building capacity of farmers, to increasing traceability and improving trade. Industrial infrastructure should be a priority as well, to encourage the packaging industry, which holds a wide range of opportunities. This segment is of vital importance for agro-industry, and has already raised significant interest from international players. How quickly the infrastructure bottleneck is solved will determine the pace of agro-industrial development.
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