Transforming African Agriculture: Marcos Brandalise Unveils Brazafric Group’s Journey

Interview with Marcos Brandalise, Founder and Group CEO of Brazafric Group of Companies (BGC)

To begin, could you give us some background on Brazafric Group of Companies and provide a brief overview of its activities?

I have been in Kenya for 31 years, with around 28 years dedicated to working in the agriculture sector. Our focus has been on supplying equipment for various agricultural processes such as coffee and rice production. Additionally, we are exploring opportunities within the agriculture sector across Africa, recognizing the significant potential for growth. Drawing from my Brazilian background, I have witnessed Brazil’s transformation from a net food importer to one of the world’s leading food exporters and producers. I believe Africa can follow a similar trajectory given the right conditions. We are actively involved in not only selling equipment but also in establishing farming ventures. We operate two companies: one dedicated to small and medium-scale farming, and the other focused on medium to large-scale commercial farming. Our goal is to contribute to the transformation of Africa’s agriculture sector and capitalize on the immense opportunities it presents, despite the challenges. While there are undoubtedly obstacles, such as limited access to affordable funding, we remain optimistic about Africa’s potential to become a significant player in global agriculture. By providing opportunities to medium-scale farms and companies, we believe we can unlock substantial growth and facilitate Africa’s development. In essence, that encapsulates our work at Brazafric Group.

Can you briefly introduce the names and outline the business activities of the other companies to ensure comprehension among our audience?

The primary company responsible for equipment supply is Brazafric, named to reflect the synergy between Brazil and Africa. Then there is L.E.A.F. Africa, specializing in agricultural consultancy and farm management concepts. Lastly, ForestFoods focuses on highly specialized farming techniques, producing premium, chemical-free food to meet market demands and promote soil regeneration. Our overarching ethos revolves around environmentally friendly practices, including regenerative agriculture, responsible water usage, and the integration of smallholder farmers. While improving the lives of smallholder farmers in Africa presents challenges, we believe our approach can significantly benefit them, particularly through our nucleus projects.

What are your key competitive advantages? How do you distinguish yourselves from other companies providing similar services?

Essentially, while some companies solely supply agricultural equipment, we offer a comprehensive range of services. Our team includes consultants who not only design projects but also develop business plans. Additionally, we have dedicated project management companies that handle all aspects, from project design to execution, including equipment supply. We ensure a seamless process from conceptualization to startup readiness. Furthermore, we extend our services to commodity trading for investors, particularly those new to commercial farming. Our holistic approach sets us apart; you will find few companies offering such an end-to-end solution in the agriculture sector.

One of the major challenges companies in Africa face is securing project funding. While there are funds available, they often target large-scale projects, leaving smaller ventures at a disadvantage. What would you say to investors to persuade them to invest in your projects?

Firstly, the opportunity in Africa is immense. Given the farmer logistics and other challenges within Europe and the Middle East, Africa is strategically positioned to address substantial gaps in domestic demand. For instance, Kenya alone imports 40% of its cereal consumption, while Sub-Saharan Africa imports around 21% of its food. To replace these imports, we need to produce millions of tons of cereals and other foodstuffs. Additionally, the Middle East presents a lucrative market for agricultural products, yet it often looks to Latin America due to insufficient production in Africa. So, there is an immediate opportunity there.

Secondly, we bring the expertise of Brazilian tropical agriculture, which aligns closely with Sub-Saharan Africa’s climate and conditions. This means we can leverage proven solutions without reinventing the wheel, ensuring success.

Moreover, our deep understanding of the African market sets us apart. Africa comprises 55 countries, each with its own diverse cultures and dynamics. Without this understanding, investors often struggle, despite their financial resources. Our team, with over 36 years of collective experience in Africa, mitigates these risks by navigating cultural nuances and local dynamics effectively.

Lastly, our equipment, primarily sourced from Brazil, is tailored to thrive in similar soil and climate conditions, ensuring optimal performance. In summary, our integrated approach offers a unique total solution, combining opportunity, expertise, and market understanding to deliver success.

Could you give us an update on the current projects you are working on and any recent developments within the company?

Firstly, we are actively seeking foreign investors to propel our revenue and project objectives forward. On a project level, we are deeply engaged. Recently, we have been in extensive discussions with Italian equipment manufacturers who are increasingly drawn to Africa’s potential. With Europe facing various challenges, Africa emerges as an attractive destination. Traditionally, companies offered exclusive product sales arrangements, but this approach is evolving. Africa is aspiring towards industrialization. I often advise partners and prospective collaborators to consider establishing assembly units to transition into local production. This aligns with the shifting priorities of African governments, aiming to reduce import dependency and boost local production and exports. It is an opportune moment for Africa, both in terms of industrialization and food production. The momentum is positive. However, prospective investors should recognize our company’s 28-year history, which includes navigating and learning from past mistakes. Despite this, we possess significant growth potential, setting us apart from others in the field.

Can you provide a success story that offers our readers insight into your achievements? Something you have implemented that exemplifies success?

Our foremost success story revolves around equipment distribution, where we have captured 70 to 80% of the East and Central Africa markets. It is rewarding to hear feedback from individuals who have visited the factories where our equipment has been supplied. This accomplishment stands out as a testament to our impact in the equipment sector.

In terms of farm development, a recent highlight involves our collaboration with Silafrica, a company investing $8 million in farms. They have entrusted us with managing their expansive farm in Kenya, a significant endorsement of our capabilities. Additionally, we are on track to establish at least two pilot projects in Kenya this year, showcasing our commitment to ongoing growth and innovation.

While our success in equipment distribution is longstanding, our foray into farm development is relatively recent, spanning about three to four years. We are confident that our dedication to empowering African investors will soon establish us as leaders in farming across the continent. Our ultimate goal is not just to farm for ourselves, but to enable African investors to take ownership of these projects, as Africa rightfully belongs to them.

Environment is a topic of widespread discussion, particularly in the agricultural sector. Could you elaborate on your approach and position regarding environmental issues? How do you align with other companies in this regard?

That is an excellent question. Essentially, we have drawn inspiration from the Brazilian model, which increasingly adopts conservation agriculture. A significant portion of land in Brazil has already transitioned to this method, focusing on carbon sequestration and efficient water management. Take, for instance, the transformation of the Cerrado region near Brasilia: once considered valueless, it is now highly prized due to advancements in technology, water management, and soil practices. Our strategy involves integrating conservation agriculture with emerging technologies aimed at reducing chemical usage and promoting bio-based inputs. This approach, flourishing in Brazil, is one we believe Africa should emulate. We prioritize environmental consciousness, emphasizing conservation and regenerative agriculture, as well as sustainable water management practices.

Looking ahead three to five years, what is your vision for the development of your company? If all goes according to plan, what will Brazafric Group, L.E.A.F., and ForestFoods represent in terms of overall concepts?

Our vision is to establish ourselves as a benchmark for delivering environmentally friendly equipment and practices. We aim to prioritize environmental sustainability in every aspect of our operations, ensuring that our initiatives benefit investors, communities, and wildlife. Protecting wildlife is particularly crucial in Africa, and we are committed to mitigating any negative impacts on local ecosystems. Ultimately, our goal is to foster a sustainable environment that can support future generations for decades to come.

As the CEO and Founder, your journey from Brazil to Africa is intriguing, we are curious to know about your inspiration. What motivates you to pursue your endeavors, and what guiding philosophy shapes your life?

I believe in the guiding forces of life, though I am not necessarily fatalistic. My journey to Africa initially began with aviation, later transitioning into agriculture, specifically equipment sales. Now, I find myself pioneering farming concepts that prioritize environmental sustainability and various other aspects. I firmly believe that each of us has a unique mission to fulfill, and for me, developing farms in Africa represents a significant part of that mission. I envision leaving behind a positive legacy, unlike the mass production and chemical-intensive practices prevalent since the post-World War II era. The world is shifting towards a more sustainable approach, and I see our initiatives as contributing to this shift. While there will undoubtedly be numerous solutions, I am proud to be a part of the movement striving to ensure that future generations can enjoy our planet just as we have.

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