US authorities invests $1.9 million to spice up Mali’s Fonio exports

Mali Shi photo 2: Yolélé’s fonio-based snacks, including fonio chips, will reach more American homes thanks to Mali Shi/Yolélé’s partnership with the Trade Hub. photo credit: Yole

The USAID/Prosper Africa co-investment grant to Mali Shi SA and Yolélé will increase exports and create 13,000 jobs.

BAMAKO, MALI – Establishing direct fonio trade between the US and Mali is the ambitious goal of a joint project by two companies, Mali Shi SA and Yolélé, which received a $1.9 million co-investment grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) West African Trade and Investment Center (Trade Hub) through Prosper Africa.

Fonio is a West African staple grain packed with many nutrients and health benefits. It is naturally gluten-free, rich in B vitamins and low in cholesterol, sodium and fat. In addition, its low glycemic index makes it a suitable carbohydrate for people with diabetes, a growing population in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

Mali Shi photo 1: Yolélé co-founders Pierre Thiam and Philip Teverow. photo credit: Yole

However, fonio is considered a neglected and underused crop species. TRADE HUB’s partnership and project with Mali Shi and Yolélé aims to change that by establishing a new global West African value chain for fonio, with Mali, Africa’s eighth largest country, as its epicenter. The project aims to make the United States the number one market for fonio and generate 2,400 metric tons per year of new exports by the end of the two-and-a-half-year project, worth more than $5 million. The project will also create 13,714 agricultural jobs in Mali and $4.5 million in collective sales to smallholder farmers.

“The market potential for fonio and related products remains largely untapped in the United States,” said chef and cookbook author Pierre Thiam, co-founder with Philip Teverow of Yolélé, an American company launched in 2017 to share ingredients and cuisine. of Africa with the whole world. “Fonio is part of the latest positive trends in superfoods, ancient/heritage grains and gluten-free products. In addition to its nutritional and culinary benefits, it can be cooked in just five minutes! Fonio also offers significant employment and income generation opportunities in West Africa, particularly among women. »

Through the TRADE HUB donation, Mali Shi, the agro-processor and lead company of the project, hopes to secure, together with Yolélé, an additional US$11.6 million from private sources to organize a fonio supply chain that meets best practices. markets and establish direct links with US commercial markets for fonio products, including Whole Foods Markets. The project will include the development and promotion of the American market, the development of the supply chain and the creation of a new processing center, West African Ancient Grains.

“One of the most positive impacts of this project is providing multiple sources of income for farmers in our growing network, which already has more than 23,000 shea collectors/farmers,” said Simballa Sylla, CEO of Mali Shi, the world’s largest shea butter processor. Malian shea. “It makes financial sense for farmers to engage in sustainable, biodiverse and multicultural rotations only if they have customers for their crops. West African Ancient Grains is that customer, something that smallholders in the Sahel lacked. West African Ancient Grains is that customer, something that smallholders in the Sahel lacked. »”

The Trade Hub’s co-investment partnership with Mali Shi and Yolélé marks its first in Mali.

Mali Shi photo 3: Mali Shi/Yolélé Small farmers in Kara, a village on the Cercle of Douentza in Mali, participate in a test organized by Yolélé in which farmers compared the results of traditional sowing of fonio with those of seed

“Mali is full of opportunities to support economic growth through private investment, create long-term jobs for smallholder farmers, and increase exports of products like fonio to the United States,” says Frantz Tavares, head of Public-Partnerships. Private for Axis Commerce. “I hope that our project with Mali Shi/Yolélé will prove this and encourage more investment in companies with high potential in Mali. »

The success of the project will be decisive for Yolélé to reach a turnover of 10 million dollars at the end of the project, thanks to the expansion of the distribution of its snacks and other fonio derivatives in the retail, food service and industrial circuits. At the end of the project, Mali Shi/Yolélé smallholder farmers will earn a sustainable income through the sale of fonio to complement their other agricultural activities, which will increase the family’s cash income by around 85% and their overall income by 32 %.


About the Trade Hub : The West African Trade and Investment Hub (Commerce Hub) is a USAID-funded initiative to drive economic growth through partnerships with the private sector to generate new investment, create new jobs, and increase the value of regional exports and West African internationals.

About USAID: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead agency of the United States government working to end extreme poverty around the world and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. The year 2021 marks USAID’s 60th anniversary and 60 years of partnership with the people of Senegal.

About Prosper Africa: Prosper Africa is the US government’s initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa. The initiative brings together services and resources from across the US government to help companies and investors gain market information, access trade support, and explore funding opportunities.

About Mali Shi: Mali Shi is an agro-processor from Mali that is part of the OMNIUM Mali Group, an industrial conglomerate present in Mali for over 20 years. It operates an industrial-scale factory – the only one of its kind in Mali – to supply shea butter to the world’s leading shea butter traders. Its mission is to transform local raw materials into value-added agricultural products through sustainable partnerships with rural production organizations. The company provides income to tens of thousands of women through its proprietary sourcing operations.

About Yole: Yolélé is an African food company based in the United States. Yolélé brings underutilized African ingredients like fonio to tables around the world in value-added products that resonate with international audiences.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Olga Balangala, Insider PR:

Leave a Comment