The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has provided Mali with a loan of €2.5 million to help establish a modern shea butter processing plant in the West African country.
The Mali Shi plant is expected to increase incomes and market access for around 120,000 shea kernel producers in Mali.
“IFC’s partnership with Mali-Shi will help develop a shea processing industry and introduce international best practices in the sector, increasing incomes and access to markets for the country’s smallholder farmers”, IFC’s Director for West and Central Africa, Aliou Maiga said.
More so, the investment will be accompanied by an advisory program that will build the managerial and financial capacity of more than 100 harvesting cooperatives in Mali Shi’s supply chain. IFC will also help Mali-Shi improve safety standards, energy efficiency, traceability as well as environmental and social management.
Despite being the world’s second-largest shea supplier, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the global shea supply, Mali’s shea processing industry remains outdated. More so, over one million of rural harvesters in Mali, the majority of whom are women, are involved in the collection of shea nuts.
Thus, the IFC project will help Mali develop a shea processing industry capable of producing and exporting shea butter, an equivalent of cocoa butter, meeting the high-quality demands of international food and cosmetic industries.
Commenting on the significance of the project, Mali Shi’s Managing Director, Simballa Syllai noted that IFC’s long-term financing and technical assistance would help the producers meet international standards in an industry where international clients’ quality requirement is very high.
Furthermore, the World Bank project – with funding and technical training – will contribute to women’s empowerment in rural areas as a majority of stakeholders in the shea industry are women.
According to the World Bank Country Director for Mali, Soukeyna Kane, the Mali Shi project will “boost economic opportunities and generate more revenues for women shea collectors.” This, she explained, is because unlike most agricultural cash crops, women have traditionally retained control of revenues from the sale of shea nuts and butter, which is proven to benefit their families and communities.
The IFC loan serves as the implementing entity for the Private Sector Window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), an initiative that enables IFC to invest in riskier projects with strong development impact. IFC’s long-term investment in Mali-Shi is also supported by the Conflict-Affected States in Africa Initiative (CASA), and backed by Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway.