Investing in An Ethiopian Business Poised for Rapid Growth

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Ask anyone over age 35 what famine looks like and there’s a good chance their mental image is Ethiopia in the 1980s. Brought on by drought, the Ethiopian crisis shocked the world with images of starving children. International response was strong. Pop music stars recorded “We Are The World" with all the proceeds from both efforts donated to Ethiopian relief. That was 30 years ago; and yet, most of us still hold that outdated image of Ethiopia. In fact, the country is once again facing drought in 2017, as The Washington Post reported in May, but this time it is going largely unnoticed.

Explore the current reality - and see the many reasons for hope - with one of our portfolio companies. Verde Beef Processing is a feed production, cattle fattening and beef processing business located in Ethiopia’s largest state, Oromia (about 3 hours from Addis Ababa). Verde Beef is raising the country’s largest herd of cattle.

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It may surprise you to learn that Ethiopia is the fifth largest cattle raising nation in the world. With its consistent sunlight, good soil and temperate climate, the central Ethiopian plateau (elevation 5,000 feet) is an ideal location for feed production and cattle fattening. Because of it’s central location within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Ethiopia is an ideal exporter of beef. The shorter shipping routes lead to longer shelf-life and lower freight costs. 

The founders of Verde Beef, Scott Friesen and Levi Benkert, have worked with the poor in Ethiopia for years. Friesen is a serial entrepreneur who has helped build and sell three US companies and one Ethiopian company over the past 15 years, with revenues of up to $40mm annually. Benkert spent 6+ years doing on-the-ground operations in Ethiopia and has over a decade of real estate development and construction experience. They started Verde Beef as a way to invest in the country and its people by growing the indigenous economy and creating jobs.

Already Verde Beef employs 600 locals and provides direct income to more than 3,000 others who work in the beef industry. It is already the largest beef exporter in Ethiopia, sending products to Jordan, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain. The company processes 1,000 cattle monthly and now is poised for dramatic growth.

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Verde has been leasing a processing facility but is quickly outgrowing it. The only way to scale is to build their own facility, using local construction crews, and creating new operating jobs in the processing plant. The new facility will enable them to increase their throughput of cattle by 13x, reduce the processing cost per animal from $27 to $15, and increase gross profit per head from 16% to 30%. Overall, this business is on track to scale to $100mm in revenue and $38M EBITDA per year. At that level of productivity the company will employ 2,500, and create 50,000 new jobs in the beef industry.

“We Are The World” and the other 80's charity music initiatives delivered needed aid to Ethiopia, but didn’t create lasting change in the country. What Ethiopia needs are jobs and companies that provide products consumers want beyond the borders of the country. Scott Friesen and Levi Benkert of Verde Beef are delivering both.

Verde Beef is currently open for investment and approved on our platform. If you are interested in learning more about investing with your charitable Impact Account in Verde Beef, email us at the Impact Foundation.