Why invest in a complex and high-risk industry that has failed in the past?

Transforming the aquaculture industry in Sub-Saharan Africa

Not that long ago, food supplies in Zambia floundered due to overfishing of inland waters. So much so that in 2014, the sub-Saharan country only produced half of the fish required to feed its growing population. The remaining 80.000 tons of fish consumption had to be imported.

Aquaculture in the Zambian lakes plays an important role in satisfying vital food demand in the country. Although this sector is still nascent, several hurdles have been encountered. It has proven difficult to build a consistently profitable aquaculture enterprise on a large scale (over 10.000 ton per year).

Due to diseases, environmental risks and the difficulty to get farm management right, aquaculture is considered a risky sector. Failed investments in the past have resulted in many commercial banks shying away from investing.

However, with its ability to structurally transform food supply in Zambia, fish farming can provide sustainable and healthy sources of protein with lower carbon footprints than meat or poultry. Tilapia is one such example.

Changing the script on all fronts

FMO’s client Yalelo is a sustainable tilapia farm in Zambia. Its activities cover the whole value chain, from breeding and feed production to end-consumer distribution. With their management systems and a data-driven scientific approach to fish farming, Yalelo unites world-leading practices with a local-to-local vision that transcends the region.

Tilapia feed on Zambian soy, maize and wheat grown by local farmers. Yalelo sells their produce to the local markets which results in a booming local economy. This increased availability of healthy food can be availed of at an affordable price that has come down by 15-20% since Yalelo entered the market.

So far, Yalelo has created over 800 jobs. All in an area where no prior industrial activity existed. Female managers make up 30% of the staff, most of them being Zambian nationals. Yalelo’s impact stretches far and wide. Continuous investment in employee training, education and literacy classes for local residents has increased both opportunity and employment prospects.

Paving the way for others to follow

Yalelo is a large-scale player in providing affordable protein to local markets. FMO invested 10.5 million USD to support sustainable business growth, lower greenhouse gas emissions and expand Yalelo’s social impact. FMO’s investment empowers Yalelo to double its production volumes and transform the aquaculture industry in the region. Yalelo’s approach has inspired others to set up their own farms. From our perspective, we hope the financial injection in this expanding industry inspires other commercial investors to take part too.

Sustainable business growth and social impact

Committed to scrutinizing every step of their processes, Yalelo is cooperating with local authorities to ensure the on-going environmental health of the Lake Kariba region.

Yalelo has proven that there is a sustainable and reliable way to increase the quantity and affordability of healthy nutrition. The integrated local-for-local approach combined with inclusive development and data-driven management has proven to be both profitable and scalable. Above all, Yalelo has transformed the aquaculture industry through positively impacting the local economy through job creation, inclusiveness and increased prospects for the community at large.

Doing makes the difference.