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Innovation and sustainability in Benin

Entrepreneurship

Husking corn and rice, grinding grain, it is all possible with the Asafma machines from Parakou in Benin. Since the visit of PUM expert Jules Veraart, the company has been able to hire twelve new employees.

Director Yacoubou Yourou is looking for a way to grow his business and simultaneously create more jobs. He submits a project application to PUM. Three months later PUM expert Jules Veraart is standing on his doorstep. Jules: "We began with putting together a business plan: Where is Asafma now? What does Asafma want to achieve and which steps are needed to make this happen? Professionalisation turned out to be the key word. I was able to help him with this."

Together, Yacoubou and the expert conclude that professionalisation can be achieved by standardizing their production protocol and by adopting a stronger market position. To achieve this, they create a business plan with several components, including the standardisation of machine production. All machines within one spectrum should have the same colour and be made in exactly the same way. They also plan to put the company’s brand name and website on all machines. This enables customers to recognise the products and easily find them online. Finally, plans are made to appoint an accountant and distributors.

'A year later the company has twelve new employees'

More efficient

After completing the advisory mission, expert Jules returns home but keeps in contact with Yacoubou. The entrepreneur wants to continue growing his business. Together with the expert, he submits a request for a donation to PUM’s Hans Blankert, which is granted. The donation combined with a personal investment enables him to purchase a metal press and metal shears. Thanks to these new tools, the machines produced by Asafma will work more efficiently. In addition, the business plan proves feasible; all planned points are implemented in the months that follow. It turns out to be a success: a year later Asafma has twelve new employees!

The factory in Benin is doing so well that expert Jules is invited for a second visit, exactly one year after the drawing up of Asafma’s business plan. In the meantime, the newly appointed bookkeeper is thriving. Asafma now knows exactly where it stands financially.  

'Collaboration is key during a mission'

Nomination for innovation

The company’s ambition does not stop here: their next step is innovation. Asafma wants to distinguish itself from the competition by innovating their products. They choose to develop a grain mill unique to Benin. Current grain mills often have flawed gasoline engines. The grain is grinded between rough metal discs that contaminate the flour with metal filings. A new design is made based on a wooden casing, an electric motor and stone grinding discs. Inspired by the millstones that have been used in the Netherlands for hundreds of years. The first prototype of the grain mill is put together and sparks the interest of the Benin Ministry of Education and Science’s innovation agency. Asafma is nominated for the national innovation prize! When the grain mill is successfully produced – of course with Asafma’s logo on the final product - it will provide a cheaper and more sustainable solution for grain processors in Benin.

Expert Jules Veraart (61) has carried out three advisory missions for PUM, of which two at Asafma. "I have noticed that cooperation is key during a mission. You can draw up a plan, a perfect one in your own opinion, but it is the customer who has to believe in it and carry it out. The fact that we were continuously working together and in dialogue, made that Yacoubou firmly believed in the business plan we created. He was enthusiastic and proud to implement it. That is why our collaboration is a success."
Director of Asafma Yacoubou Yourou: “We are very grateful to PUM for the expertise Mr. Jules Veraart brought us. It gave us valuable knowledge, knowhow and insights in our company. The support has a great extent and is sustainable. He guided our ideas with his expertise – from entrereneur to entrepreneur."

Click here and here to view two videos published by Beninese press about this mission.