The Business Year

Abbas Chamoun

ANGOLA - Agriculture

Abbas Chamoun

Country CEO, Solevo Group

Bio

Abbas Chamoun has been the Country CEO of Solevo Group for the last six years, bringing his knowledge and expertise within the agricultural sector. He also counts on a strong background in chemicals trading, where he developed more than 10 years’ experience.

With more than 70 years of experience in sub-Saharan markets, Solevo Group offers a large portfolio of products and services that target farmers and large plantations.

Could you give us an overview of Solevo Group’s range of products and business lines in Angola?

Until 2015, Solevo held a 70% market share, making us the market leader. Then, the crisis started in Angola, and we felt obliged to reduce our imports, reducing our market share from 70% to around 10%. Currently, we are regaining the dominant market position, hopefully within two to three years. Solevo’s product portfolio is made-up by several business lines, crop protection products, fertilizers, seeds, and industrial chemicals. Fertilizers are the most used inputs in agriculture, which are imported by several players in Angola and Solevo used to be on top of them, as for crop protection products for which Solevo is still leading the market with more than 35% market share.

How does Solevo Group perform in other markets like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mali or Senegal?

We are market leader in Cameroon and Ivory Coast and a top-three player on all other countries. Agriculture in Africa is not just the preserve of the private sector, because public institutions are involved in the development of the agro-industry, which is essential for African food security.

What are the main challenges and opportunities of Angola’s agriculture sector to be?

There is a huge potential to develop the market. Just 5.4 million hectares are currently cultivated, which amounts to 15% of a total of 35 million hectares. We would need to increase productivity in the agro-industry, as currently 80% of the Angolan market is family-owned agriculture and not industrial production. Consequently, there is a lack of efficiency in the sector.

Could public institutions help to transform SMEs in the agriculture sector into bigger industrial groups?

It seems that the government will now support farmers directly. The idea is to help them by subsidizing their needs to help SMEs grow. As an importer and distributor, we need to pay attention to these measures since those people represent 80% of our potential clients and a special support is needed between the month of September and April.

In light of the pandemic, how do you perceive the atmosphere in the agriculture sector?

The sector has not been growing for the last two years because of COVID-19 and the crisis that the country was going through. The government is aware of the need for diversification. The oil and gas sector simply cannot be the engine of the country, as those commodities will ultimately be exhausted, and the primary sector of the country needs to be self-sufficient. Therefore, the government is making many local facilities available to private investors to develop the agricultural sector. Because of this, I do believe the sector will grow. The market is huge, but the supply is insufficient, and farmers need support to increase total production. It is not even a question of doubling production, but of multiplying it by five, which currently seems impossible given the limited use of fertilizers. Recently, we started a new project based on not only collecting demand, but also creating it by better comprehending farmers’ and their needs.

What are the specific goals and objectives for Solevo Group for 2022?

We are growing to swiftly regain our market share in Angola and are working to a plan taking us to 2024 to accordingly. We are based in Catumbela due to its proximity to Lobito Port, which is the main distribution hub for the agriculture sector. Our main site is in Catumbela where we have the blender and bagging line, and over 10,000 tons of raw materials. We are near the railway which can be useful to start distributing to the countryside if possible. We fully intend to remain in Angola permanently, developing our activities and helping the country to achieve its future objectives.

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