EmVest CEO Susan Payne makes case for Africa farmland

Peoples Company | 24 June 2013

EmVest CEO Susan Payne says a passion for food security drove her into the business of farmland investing in Africa, a continent with 54 countries and representing 1,000 languages.

Payne, who leads the efforts of a diversified, agricultural investment company for institutional investors operating in Sub Sahara Africa, makes a case for a high-growth continent with a large untapped workforce and mass of uncultivated arable land.

“The demographics are compelling,” she said during her 2013 Land Investment Expo presentation, noting some may be surprised to learn of an abundance of fresh water flowing in Africa, which is 10 times the size of India in terms of land mass.

“It’s not all about the Sahara Desert,” Payne told a room full of Land Expo attendees who gathered for the Sixth Annual Land Investment Expo presented in West Des Moines by Peoples Company. “We operate south of the desert, and in that area there are many major rivers…. There is a lot of water in certain parts of Africa.”

EmVest operates a total of 10 sites, employing farm managers and local farm workers to grow an array of grains, vegetables and nuts on about 25,000 acres. From onions to melons and sugarcane, Payne said her “turf to table” operation – growing food for Africans and exporting some produce – is all about increasing food production while building relationships with governments and strengthening communities.

Payne, who has a background in investment banking, says social responsibility and environmental sustainability is growing in importance, and EmVest works to ensure access to fresh water, electricity, job training, medical services and other benefits for the African communities in which her company operates.

“One of the reasons I like coming (to Iowa)… is that, first of all, it’s the agricultural heartland of America, and I operate from the agricultural heartland of Africa,” Payne said. Later in her presentation, Payne talked about the importance of both technology and the power of going to market. “There is not only good technology in the places where we operate, but there are massive, monumental local markets,” she said. “And that’s exactly what farms want, massive local markets.”

Peoples Company posted on YouTube a 37-minute video of Payne’s Land Expo talk, featuring more information about the ag entrepreneur’s take on investment opportunities in Africa – and untapped opportunities in a part of the world experiencing both a high rate of GDP growth and emergence of productive farmland markets with land prices much lower than many other parts of the world.

“There are immense opportunities for adding value in Africa and you can improve yields in so many ways,” Payne said. “It is the highest impact investment you can make.”

Click here to watch the video, and stay tuned for announcements regarding the speakers and programming in store for attendees of the Seventh Annual Land Investment Expo on January 24, 2014, at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel.
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