BAMAKO, December 20, 2010—Fifty-one-year-old Malian businessman Madiou Simpara missed the chance to get a decent education. He spent decades running businesses in the informal sector before graduating to the formal sector and then reaching a deal with a German-trained engineer to start up one of Mali’s most successful agri-businesses.
Simpara’s story was just one of the many that captivated the attention of World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick as he visited Mali December 18-20. Zoellick toured the premises of Simpara’s agri-business on Sunday.
“We are delighted through IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm, to have provided a loan that expands this business,” Zoellick told reporters as he emerged from a visit to the beverage bottling company, Groupe Industriel Madiou Simpara SA (GRIMAS).
Last June, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), approved €14 million in support of a €33.2 million modernization and expansion plan, which will enable GRIMAS to establish new operations in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. IFC’s total direct investments (loans, equity and guarantees) currently total $147 million.
“This is exactly the kind of business we want to encourage,” Zoellick said. A company like GRIMAS, he added, “helps to expand entrepreneurship in Mali, creates jobs, raises tax revenue for the government and ensures that some of the potential in agriculture and agribusiness in Mali is realized”.
Leading the Beverage Sector
IFC’s support has turned GRIMAS into the leading integrated company in the beverage sector in West Africa. The company employs 205 people, about 10 percent of them women. It also accounts for over 2,500 indirect jobs in the form of distributors, wholesalers, and sub-contractors hired by the 200 small and medium-sized enterprises which do business with the company.
“I want to salute the courage of the president to go from commerce to industry,” Zoellick said in praise of Simpara, a former local trader turned industrialist who, along with his spouse, flanked Zoellick as he spoke to the media on Sunday at Moribabougou, in the outskirts of Bamako.
Simpara has tried his hand at several businesses, including general trade, representation and distribution, real estate, auto spare part dealership, transit and now agro industry.
“It is wonderful the president could use his relations among investors to create this business,” Zoellick said, recognizing that the loan from IFC complemented impressive efforts made by the company’s management and its president and founder.
Zoellick, who traveled with World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili, gave a resounding endorsement to Simpara’s business as he sipped from a bottle of American Cola Light, one of the soft drinks made by GRIMAS.
GRIMAS produces soft drinks, mineral water, preforms and bottle caps, plastic and carbon dioxide (CO2) beverages, and is the only industrial producer of caps in the region and the first to introduce polyethylene terephthalate bottles.
Bottles produced from GRIMAS’ preform and caps are used for local agriculture produce (e.g. local fruit juices, dairy products, mineral water, vinegar, mayonnaise and cleaning supplies) not only in Mali but also in Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Niger, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania and Senegal.
Support from the World Bank
The World Bank’s private sector arm is also promoting efforts at GRIMAS to professionalize its operations and attain international standards in the areas of beverage production, environmental and social matters, insurance, corporate governance and financial management.
IFC may also work with GRIMAS on its plans to produce local fruit concentrates and juices (mango and orange), which could vastly improve incomes for local farmers and boost the development of out-grower programs.
Part of the company’s medium-to-long-term plan is to add a cleaner production/climate change component which, among other things, could focus on energy and water conservation.
GRIMAS has also, albeit indirectly, benefited from the work of the Project to Support Growth (PAC). Financed by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), PAC addresses market failures that limit the capacity of Small enterprises (SMEs) to obtain the necessary skills and business services to increase their productivity and competitiveness.