In what was once a patch of desert in northern Egypt, dozens of workers fan out across a lush olive grove belonging to Wadi Group, a long-time IFC investment and advisory client.
The company was founded more than 25 years ago by two Lebanese families, the Freijis and Nasrallahs, who back then had just 30 hectares under cultivation.
Since then, the company has grown to become one of Egypt's most successful food producers. That original grove became a series of farms that today stretch over 4,600 hectares.
In early December, IFC Vice President for Human Resources, Communications, and Administration Dorothy Berry got a first-hand look at one of IFC’s flagship investments in Egypt, touring Wadi Food operations outside of Cairo.
“The progress that this company has made is remarkable,” said Berry. “It’s a testament to how with innovation, vision and hard work, companies can grow, create jobs, and drive economic development.”
The company is renowned for its high-quality poultry, fish, olives, olive oil, and organic vegetables. Wadi Group has been expanding operations to complement its core business, producing chicken feed additives, and evaporative cooling pads, in addition to establishing a soya crushing facility and a logistics business.
Along the way, Wadi got a boost from IFC, which has provided the company with three loans totaling $65 million since 2005. The investments helped Wadi expand its olive and grape plantations, ratchet up its production of feed, and expand other aspects of its business. At the same time, IFC's advisory arm has provided the company with assistance on corporate governance, composting, and ways to minimize the risk of diseases like bird flu.
“Over the years, IFC has been an important partner,” said Ramzi Nasrallah, Wadi Group Chief Operating Officer. “It has combined its investments and advisory services to help us grow.”
With an initial focus on poultry in Lebanon in the 1950s, the Freiji and Nasrallah families expanded into Egypt by establishing Wadi Holding in 1984. By focusing on top-notch ingredients and high-quality produce, the company grew quickly. Today it employs more than 3,600 people and does business with more than 1,500 farmers and distributors, most of them small businesses.
One thing that makes Wadi Group unique is its commitment to the community. It has launched the Wadi Environmental and Science Centre (WESC), a non-profit group that gives primary and high school students practical training in areas like water conservation and sustainable farming. This center was created 10 years ago to help students explore the natural world, and learn scientific principles based on their experiences. In the process, they gain confidence in their creativity and critical thinking skills and learn to formulate, articulate, and refine hypotheses.