Yara has a long history of doing business in Africa and engaging with African agro-dealers, farmers and policymakers – delivering its first mineral fertilizer shipment to the continent back in 1929, and now looking back on a permanent presence in Africa since 1985.
Yara is the only global mineral fertilizer company with a direct presence throughout the continent. Continuously developed and expanded through sales offices and production facilities, this presence also gives us a deep-rooted experience of African agriculture and thorough knowledge of the continent’s challenges and opportunities.
Policy and development partner
Yara was the first private sector company to heed the call from then Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan at a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa in 2004, when he urged participation from all sectors to support the development of African agriculture.
As one of few private companies in the UN Hunger Task Force, Yara gained insight into the complex issues related to hunger, poverty and development of African agriculture and economies. We also participated at the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja in 2006, which agreed on a strategy to accelerate poor farmers’ access to agricultural inputs.
Connected to our centennial celebrations in 2005, we established an Africa Program, and we created the Yara Prize. Yara initiated and co-hosted the African Green Revolution Conferences, 2006–2008. These brought together key stakeholders such as farmers, businesses, donors, academics and donors alongside governments. The conference series was then transferred to Africa and re-launched in 2012 as the African Green Revolution Forum. Yara has engaged in business partnerships, including the launch of the Agricultural Growth Corridor concept and local value chain partnerships.
Yara has especially taken on a role as a catalyst in promoting public-private partnerships (PPP), in order to rally support for much needed investments. Particular attention has been given to smallholders – the great majority of the continent’s farmers – encouraging local entrepreneurship and market development to make farming a viable business.
Yara has adopted a value chain approach, looking at the need to address the entire food value chain, de-bottlenecking through targeted infrastructure investments, public-private collaboration and gaining access to markets for the African farmer. This concept, Agricultural Growth Corridors, is being implemented in Mozambique and Tanzania.
In 2011, Yara took a position of co-chair in the newly established Grow Africa Partnership, which aims to leverage experience from the growth corridors and related projects and scale up investments into the African agricultural sector to support individual country strategies.
This came to fruition when the G8 summit in 2012 committed to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which was inspired by Grow Africa and the growth corridors. Playing a part in developing and presenting the alliance, we committed to invest in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania, and to explore the potential for a competitive location for a new world class fertilizer production facility in Africa, linked to broader agricultural development, and to catalyze sustainable growth.
Yara has a long history of relations with Africa, dating back to the first consignment of fertilizers shipped to Egypt in 1929 by Norsk Hydro, from which Yara was demerged in 2004. Currently we have a fertilizer plant in Libya, and sales and marketing offices located in South Africa, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.
Deliveries to Egypt continued until World War II, and resumed after the war, through a local agent and a sales office representing European companies. After the subsequent nationalization of Egyptian industries in the 1950, deliveries were halted until the early 1980s. Sales to Sub-Saharan Africa were linked to development aid, which financed consignments of mineral fertilizers in the 1970s and 80s.
Sales to Africa picked up with Hydro’s acquisition of NSM in 1979, which gave access to the Dutch company’s agent network in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. The acquisition of British Fisons and French Cofaz further strengthened Hydro’s African presence – and implied an ownership stake in two chemical enterprises in Zimbabwe – which have later been disassociated.
Fertilizers as development aid were provided especially to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, helping us to establish a market presence and position in East Africa, and a foothold in Southern Africa. The strong brand position originating from the 1970s and 80s is illustrated by the curiosity that, in East Africa, the original Norsk Hydro Viking ship logo, used by Yara since the demerger in 2004, has become a household nickname – 'Chapa Meli' – Swahili for 'ship's brand.'
Norsk Hydro established Yara’s uninterrupted permanent presence in Africa in 1985, when a sales office primarily for Southern Africa was opened in Zimbabwe, with an eye on the huge South African market which would eventually open with the end of apartheid and the end of sanctions. At the same time, a designated Africa office was established at the Hydro headquarters in Oslo, later moved to Paris, and finally to Johannesburg, where Hydro established its presence in 1996.
Today, Yara’s Business Unit Africa is located in Johannesburg. In the early 1990s, an office was also established in Nairobi. Today, we have sales offices in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, in addition to the Johannesburg office.
Yara operates production plants in North Africa; the joint venture production of liquid fertilizer at Nouberia, Egypt came on-stream in 2005, and our JV company Lifeco at Mersa el-Bregna, Libya was established in 2009. The latter is the only producer of mineral fertilizers in the country, and operation had to close during the civil strife in 2011–2012.
In the 1980s, Hydro acquired a French company, which became Hycrochem, which operated a blending facility in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast. This served as a foothold for expanding into the West African market, where our main presence today is found in Ghana.
In 2009, Yara acquired a majority stake in Ethiopotash, exploring the viability of developing a potash mine in Ethiopia. In 2012, at the invitation of the Government of Tanzania, the building of our fertilizer terminal in Dar es Salaam commenced – as part of the Southern African Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), which Yara played a key role in launching.