May 30, 2022

Maize flour mill employing 10 and servicing Yambio state

Meet Michael, the softly spoken 24-year-old proprietor of Gamboripai Agro-Processors & Service Company in Yambio, South Sudan. The maize milling service has bridged a gap for traders, processes half a metric ton of maize per day and employs 10 young people.

The World Food Programme recently reported that “food insecurity in South Sudan has reached the most extreme levels since independence in 2011.” The country is grappling with outbreaks of conflict, climate shocks, COVID-19 and rising costs, which are endangering food security for 70% of the population.

Yet the region where 24-year-old, Michael Aliam, is from – Yambio – is also known as the country’s breadbasket. Rich soil and temperate climes, as well as a traditionally agrarian society, inspired the entrepreneur to innovate to support his community.

South Sudan imports the majority of its milled maize flour from Uganda, which can be costly and time consuming. Noticing a gap in the market, at just 18-years-old, Michael surprised his father with a request. He had saved almost enough money to purchase a maize miller, with which he wanted to start his own business. With a small, additional cash injection from his father, who was impressed by his young son’s ambition, Michael bought the mill and got to work.

Farmers visit the mill with their produce to be ground down to flour and sold in markets across the region. Michael takes a fee for every bag of maize flour his mill grinds. The company also buys maize from the local farmers, thereby creating a market incentive for the farmers to think ahead and plan commercially.

Michael Aliam at his maize milling company in Yambio, South Sudan © 2022, SPARK
Gamboripai Agro-Processors and Service Company in Yambio, South Sudan © 2022, SPARK

Michael got involved in a business plan competition organised by SPARK as part of the Food Security through Agribusiness programme, which is financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in South Sudan. He was among the successful candidates and after training, was recommended to SPARK’s partner, Rural Finance Initiative (RUFI), to apply for a loan to purchase a higher quality mill that would produce quality graded flour.

It took Michael over three months to procure the machine from Uganda, transport it to South Sudan and finally have it installed and up and running. “It was a challenging process,” he confessed, “but I was determined and finally succeeded.”

Michael’s small business, Gamboripai Agro-Processors and Service Company (Gamboripai meaning ‘God’s will’), processes half a metric ton of maize per day on average and employs 10 young people. The service has also bridged a gap for the traders in Yambio. His community are now spared the time and financial burden of procuring maize flour from outside the country.

Michael and the employees of Gamboripai in Yambio, South Sudan © 2022, SPARK

Plans for expansion
“This is just the beginning,” says Michael. By next year, he plans to expand his business to include other agro-processing services. There is a vast unmet maize flour market in the regions of Wau and Juba, for example, where the company plans to expand to.

“Another market niche I have identified is processing cassava flour,” Michael confided. “If you visit the local restaurants, they all local process cassava flour by pounding. If I can process this flour and supply the restaurants, that would be a good business.”

Michael also hopes to import a groundnut thresher, which is presently lacking in the state, as well as process and package maize bran for animal feed to supply farmers across the state.

With his entrepreneurial mindset, Michael’s business is becoming a household name in the South Sudanese milling industry. It seems nothing can stand in the path of this youth entrepreneur. After all, it is Gamboripai – God’s will.