[Interview] Omar Coulibaly, Managing Director, InnoFaso, Burkina Faso
InnoFaso is an agrifood company based in Burkina Faso whose mission is to meet the country's needs in the treatment and prevention of malnutrition.
InnoFaso was recently recognized by the UN as one of the 50 Best Small Businesses in the World in the Global Good Food for All competition.
Africa Business Communities speaks with Omar Coulibaly, Managing Director of InnoFaso:
Can you tell us about your company?
InnoFaso is a Burkinabé company incorporated in the form of a public limited company with its head office in Ouagadougou. The company's mission is to make accessible through its production unit and to meet Burkina Faso's needs for products for the treatment and prevention of malnutrition.
The first company to join the 2iE Foundation's technology park, the company actively participates in this technology park's mandate: to increase the development of innovation in the South while giving young engineers a taste for entrepreneurship.
From its creation, InnoFaso joined the PlumpyField® franchise network developed by Nutriset. This international network has 12 partners, including 7 in Africa. This network also contributes to Nutritional Autonomy and thus participates in the establishment of sustainable systems, making it possible to identify and make accessible the nutrients necessary for the development and good health of its population.
Were there any special circumstances in your community that led you to start your agri-food business?
InnoFaso was legally created in 2011 to meet Burkina Faso's needs for malnutrition treatment products. It is important to emphasize that before the establishment of InnoFaso, Burkina Faso imported around 2,500 tons of therapeutic food to treat malnourished children in our country between 2005 and 2012. InnoFaso was therefore created in order to completely replace this import.
Since the start of activities in 2013, InnoFaso has provided around 8,000 tonnes of therapeutic food to humanitarian actors, helping to treat just over 1 million children suffering from acute malnutrition in Burkina Faso.
InnoFaso is today positioned as a key player in the fight against malnutrition in Burkina Faso.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic had a direct or indirect impact on your business operations?
COVID 19 did not have a specific direct impact on InnoFaso's operational activities (Production, sales). However, from mid 2020, a surge in the prices of certain raw materials and freight rates is observed and attributable to COVID 19 (resumption of activities in Asia and Europe). This surge in costs naturally impacts InnoFaso's costs and is likely to negatively influence its competitiveness. The conditions for accessing credit have also become more complicated with COVID entering into increased financial costs and also higher collateral levels.
What other challenges have you encountered along your journey and how have you worked to overcome them?
The main challenge InnoFaso faces is the competitiveness of these products compared to imported products. InnoFaso is in fact subject to significant local taxation (customs duty on imported materials and VAT on local purchases). This is not the case with competitors who re-export all of their production to countries in need.
Also production costs (especially electricity) are very high in Burkina Faso.
InnoFaso has worked over the years to develop its competitiveness through its policy of purchasing raw materials, monitoring production costs, improving productivity, etc.).
Describe what it means for your food business to be selected by the UN as one of the top 50 small businesses in the world?
InnoFaso is now positioned as a major in nutrition in Burkina Faso. To be selected by the UN as one of the 50 best small businesses in the world is a pride but also a recognition on a global scale of our contribution to the improvement of the nutritional status of the children of our country. This reinforces our desire to work even more for nutritional autonomy in our country while creating added value.
What is your vision for 2022 and beyond building a more nutritious, sustainable, equitable and resilient food system?
InnoFaso aims to strengthen its position as a major player in nutrition. The company is working to diversify the products offered by going beyond treatment by offering products for the prevention of malnutrition. In 2022, the company wants to produce and distribute Grandi bien products on a large scale.
What other support does your business and others like you need to create healthy, sustainable food for all?
One of the important factors for the successful development of a food business is access to financing at competitive rates. In fact, in the agrifood sector, the working capital requirement is often significant. Having financial partners to cover this need can be decisive. Also the interest rates charged by traditional banks can negatively impact competitiveness in our context.
What key advice would you give to others who would like to follow your lead to become innovative, passionate and values-driven food entrepreneurs?
The entrepreneur also aims to help create added value in his community and participate in the well-being of the community. This common thread combined with passion, enthusiasm and selflessness very often turns the idea of a food business into a business that matters.
This interview is part of a series covering the winners of the United Nations Global Best Small Business Contest of Good Food for All.