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2007 Fellow featured for agribusiness finance


Nigeria's Business Day has written a lengthy profile on the groundbreaking work that 2007 Tutu Fellow Mezuo Nwuneli has done in financing and agribusiness.  It tracks how his company, Sahel Capital, started in agribusiness by backing a startup after discovering that a local noodle company was importing 50 tons of chili pepper a month. 

Mezuo and his wife, who ran the company, believed that chili could be sourced in Nigeria and set out to facilitate import substitution. This was a change from their initial business plan, which was to produce jams, spreads, spices, and seasonings.

After diving headlong into chilis, the experience Sahel Capital gained in building the local supply chain and connecting the dots from field to final product proved invaluable later on when the Nigerian government put out a Request for Bids for a private equity fund focused on food and agriculture. 

With their financial expertise - Mezuo's background was in corporate finance, including a stint a JP Morgan Chase - and their experience in building local agribusiness, they were able to win the bid process, edging out many local and international competitors.  Mezuo said that they had already showed they were interested in it by putting in their own money to build businesses and be active in the space. That gave them the credibility that they weren't just bidding because there was money on the table. 

The Nigerian agribusiness fund for which they won the bid is FAFIN. It is a private equity fund that provides financial, capacity‐building, and technical assistance to selected Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Nigerian agribusiness sector.  Investors in FAFIN include the African Development Bank, the DFID Impact Fund, the Dutch Good Growth Fund, the Federal Government of Nigeria, KfW Development Bank, and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority.

The first close of funding in 2014 was with $33 million, followed by another round in 2017, which yielded an additional $32.9 million, to increase the total pool to $65.9 million that Sahel Capital manages. FAFIN’s portfolio of companies under Mezuo’s management have so far generated 672 direct jobs, out of which about 17% are women. It has indirectly impacted over 16,300 individuals through their engagement across the value chain.  FAFIN portfolio companies aggregate a significant amount of crops from Nigerian farmers, including over 25,500 tons of rice, 13,000 tons of cassava, 364,000 litres of milk, 260,300 fowl and 24,000 tons of shea nuts a year.

Sahel Capital is expected to invest in 10-12 companies and build and create value in those companies, so that investors see a return of more than 8% a year in dollar terms over the fund's 10-year period.  So far, seven companies have been selected with more lined up.  You can read the full profile at Business Day Nigeria.

In October 2019, Mezuo accepted an award on behalf of Sahel Capital for impact investing that underscores the 'possiblity of doing good while doing well'.  The award was from the Impact Investors Foundation.

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