- Why is the African continent so appealing to you?
The continent of Africa is very interesting not only for economic development, but also for its diversification in people, culture and nature. I left the Netherlands to go to Africa in 1975 for the first time and in particular I worked in Cameroon for four years in regards to developing cooperative micro banking in rural areas. After more than forty years the continent has dramatically changed in general with a growing population, relatively high level of education and schooling. Although there are still dictators, democratic political principles have substantially changed the continent and empowered the people.
- Why is it a good time to invest in agribusiness within Africa?
Because of the high level of education and the availability of vast agricultural land as well as the availability of water resources, I believe it is now time that food production and agricultural systems will be modernised to conform international standards and requirements. Investments opportunities in this respect are increasing in line with the need for sustainable food and heath comfort.
- In your opinion, what are the ‘best’ areas of agribusiness to invest in and why?
The best areas are now in food processing and distribution since primary food producing has proved reliable and attainable. Now the need is growing for preserving agricultural products and delivering this to the final consumers, mostly in urban regions.
- What are the deciding factors for deciding on a good agribusiness project?
Very simple: Financial viability!
- What has been the biggest agricultural achievement of AfricInvest?
AfricInvest has the longest standing track record in Africa, with over 135 investments deployed in more than 25 countries, and more than 70 successfully completed exits (including partial ones). The Firm has executed multiple successful investments with high impact factors in areas including financial services, agribusiness and pharma/private hospitals, and has been able to leverage this experience with companies acquired in other countries. Track Record in Agriculture and Agri-business
In the agro sector, the Group has invested about $115 million in 24 investments (including 9 exits) across 7 countries in agribusiness. The 9 exits have generated average IRR of 14% and an average of MOIC of 2.0X.
The investments are made across various sub-sectors including but not limited to poultry products (including turkey hatchery), dairy products (including sterilized milk in plastic bottles and in brick packages), butter made from fresh milk, new dairy products (yoghurt, desserts), juice, nectars and mineral water, seed production and distribution, processed meat, processed cheese, export of fruits and vegetables, production of budded and non-budded plants, wholesale distribution of pesticides, fertilizers, production and distribution of salty and sweet snacks, rubber processing, flower production.
- What are the key factors for deciding on a good agribusiness project?
Attractive business concept, international partnership, available know-how, adequate distribution and logistics etc.
- As the Chairman of the NABC as well, how do you feel Dutch-based businesses are responding to the African markets?
Dutch agricultural business has been originally based on family-owned companies and relatively small based activities in agricultural and horticultural areas in The Netherlands. Farmers and horticulturalists have been a long time associated through well-established cooperatives. During the last twenty years many small agriculture companies have evolved into well-structured big companies that have grown big multiple services now in Europe and are a huge part of food and agricultural need. This is not to forget the Dutch flower production. I don’t know the number but a lot of them have been expanding to Africa in order to make profit of available sizable land and climate favourable situations line Morocco, Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Ben Zwinkels grew up in agricultural family in the West of the Netherlands and has more than forty years of experience in banking and business development in Africa. After horticultural secondary education and working at the family horticulture business, Ben studied Accountancy and Business Administration in the evening hours for more than 7 years. After working for Stork Industries, Ben first went to live in Africa during the seventies and worked for cooperative banking in Cameroon and promoting SME’s in Tunisia. While living in Cameroon Ben fell in love with the continent. In 1982 Ben started his carrier at FMO, the Dutch Development Bank and developed a great experience in finance while travelling to 62 countries during more than 30 years of employment for FMO. Ben realised for FMO many investment transactions in more than 40 banks and 35 investments funds.
While working for FMO, Ben became an authority of Private Equity in Africa and initiated the African Venture Capital Association as also the reviving of the NABC (Netherlands Africa Business Council). After retiring from FMO, Ben Chairman of the Board of AfricInvest and continued his respective Board Memberships within the Group Bank of Africa and the Group First Afriland Group. These two groups cover banking activities in more than 25 African countries. Ben combines these board positions with further Board Memberships in some Private Equity Funds in Vietnam and Mauritius. In his capacity of Chairman of the Board for AfricInvest, Ben remains active in the financial sector of Africa. Finally Ben’s motto has always been: Your limitation lies in your imagination!
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