Jean-Pierre Duhamel (SIA): quenching Africa’s thirst for milk

French businessman Jean-Pierre Duhamel spent much of his life developing food processing plants around the world. He now works exclusively in Africa designing and installing facilities for milk, yoghurt, spreads and fruit juices. The CEO of SIA (France) offers African investors “an opportunity to plough something back into a growth sector at home.”

Milk products consumption in Africa is currently the lowest in the world. At around 37 liters per capita annually, local consumption is far below the world average of 104 liters per capita and accounts for only six percent of world consumption. With population growing across the continent, rising purchasing power and increased demand for quality nutrition, there are major opportunities in the dairy industry, believes Jean-Pierre Duhamel, CEO of SIA, a French company specialized in engineering and building food processing plants on the African continent.

“SIA combines 40 years of experience in the global food and agribusiness with profound knowledge of the African continent. For clients wanting to set up in the business of producing milk, yoghurt, margarines and food products we can offer a full service from design and build right through to the operational phase.”

East versus West

According to SIA’s CEO, the dairy market in Africa can be divided roughly between fresh and powdered milk, along a line which separates East from West. “The climate and geography in French-speaking countries of Western Africa is quite different to say Rwanda or Kenya, countries that have land suitable for grazing dairy cows and a more Anglo-Saxon tradition of fresh milk consumption. In West and Central Africa’s hot countries, with low levels of fridge ownership and frequent electricity outages, fresh milk is not an option. So in this part of the continent there is a strong demand for powdered milk and long-life, UHT-products.

African entrepreneurs

Duhamel’s company, SIA, has set up food installations in 10 West and central African countries so far. These include plants for producing margarine in Senegal and Congo, yoghurt installations in Congo, Gabon and Chad, and fruit juice production lines in Chad and Cameroon. The level of investment required varies between € 0.5 million to € 6 million with an average break-even period of five years.

“Many of our investors are African entrepreneurs who have made their fortunes in other sectors or countries. Like us they believe that Africa needs to produce more of its own food supply and add value at home. We recently completed a factory in Congo to process margarine that can be kept at ambient temperatures. An interesting aspect of this project is that it’s part of an integrated production chain developed from scratch by an African client with a vision. He started out rehabilitating an abandoned palm plantation, then refurbished old factories to extract the oil. The next step was to bottle the oil in plastic bottles and then to set up a margarine plant using that local oil. It’s a great example of African entrepreneurship, keeping production and processing close together and providing employment for over a hundred families.”

Jean-Pierre Duhamel not only designs and builds the installations, he trains staff, and develops the formulas for the product. “It’s this A-Z service which differentiates us from suppliers from say India or China, who simply provide equipment. We offer high-quality design, build and service from start to finish. Like our African investors we believe in adding value to the local economy.”

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