Launched by the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation and Crédit Agricole S.A. in 2018, Solidarity Bankers is a skills volunteering programme open to all Crédit Agricole Group employees in favour of microfinance institutions and impact businesses supported by the Foundation. Discover the notebooks of Stéphane Frénéat, Solidarity Banker of UNEXO who went to Senegal to support La Laiterie du Berger, a social impact company in which the Foundation is a shareholder.
Solidarity Bankers…an incredible worthy professional and personal experience!
Since 2010, the Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation has been a partner of Laiterie du Berger (LDB), a social impact enterprise based in Senegal (Dakar and Richard Toll), created in 2006 by Bagoré Bathily. LDB fights against poverty by building a local dairy industry (from production to distribution) in harmony with the environment, and thus promoting healthy food for as many people as possible. It deploys a specific training programme around the concept of “farm school”, located in Richard Toll (Mauritania border), close to the production plant. This training allows many young Fulani village women to access the breeder profession and thus to have an income from the milk they produce and resell to the Laiterie. They therefore acquire, among other things, financial autonomy.
The proposed mission consisted in supporting Laiterie du Berger and its manager in the (i) structuring of financing (mix of equity, private and public debt, hybrid financing.) and (ii) in the reflection on the governance to be implemented to ensure the development of the company and its sustainability.
The profile sought and the content of the mission matched perfectly my professional skills, my experience, my passion for travel and the discovery of other cultures. It allowed me to combine my job with my values and a certain quest for meaning… “Finance” at the service of solidarity and sharing.
It was therefore only natural that I proposed my candidacy to the Foundation. Upon validation, we immediately prepared the mission with the Foundation and Bagoré teams. All together we “reformulated” the objectives of the mission and its planning. Bagoré and the Foundation sent me all the necessary information so that I could learn about the strategic plan of the Laiterie and the economic and financial issues.
Prior to the trip, the preparation phase is essential. It makes it possible to validate everyone’s expectations, to clarify the objectives, the approach and the expected deliverables. Thus, on the proposal of Bagoré in collaboration with the teams of the Foundation, we set my work schedule for the whole mission: the appropriate interlocutors with whom to meet, the sites to visit, the work and restitution sessions, 10 days is very (too) short…
Flight to Dakar and Richard Toll
The big day arrived! I fly away, happy and excited at the idea of spending 12 days in the field, in Senegal! I was leaving for an online mission with my skills and knowledge in corporate finance but, without specific knowledge of the microfinance sector and impact businesses, in a structure and cultural context different from my daily life.
Welcomed by Bagoré as soon as I arrived, the adventure began! Established not far from the Dakar headquarters of La Laiterie, I prepared this dense week of meetings and work sessions with the LDB teams based in the capital.
After a weekend devoted to meeting the family shareholders of the Laiterie in order to immerse myself in the shareholder context of the company, Ortence, executive assistant, Jean who will lead me throughout the missions and Bagoré welcome me to the headquarters of LDB to start our week of meetings with the various managers. The objective is to immerse myself in the company and to fully understand the challenges and the development strategy:
- Ouakam will make me discover in situ, the two distribution channels of “Dolima” products (commercial brand of LDB products) namely the supermarkets and some of the 22,000 stalls of the “informal” sector!
- Bakary will make me discover in Tiès one of the company’s logistics “hubs”, the real organisational and financial challenge for La Laiterie (respecting the cold chain in a tropical country, collection management, etc.);
- Momar will present to me the plans for the new factory to be built, the technical, organisational and financial issues of such a project in Senegal;
- Emma will share with me the many financial challenges that the company must take up to finance its day-to-day operations and find adequate financing for the various projects in progress in a country where the banking and financial sector does not operate identically to what we are used to here in Europe;
- Arona will show me around the factory based in Richard Toll. We will meet young Fulani village women, students of the livestock farmer training programme initiated by the la Laiterie and future “entrepreneurs” who supply fresh milk to the la Laiterie. Moments of sharing and unforgettable emotions when breaking the fast (I was there during Ramadan) with these incredible young girls, full of courage and energy! laughter, smiles…a clash of cultures!
Back in Dakar and armed with a precise vision of the company and its challenges, particularly financial ones, I devoted the last two days to discussions with Bagoré and Emma on the two topics of my mission (structuring of financing and governance ) and writing the first drafts of deliverables (capitalisation tables, governance model, financing plan, etc.) which will be adjusted when I return to France and then shared with the Foundation team and Bagoré…
I returned to Nantes, happy to have had this experience. This mission brought me a lot, especially on a human level; I was able to discover another culture, have enriching exchanges and meet inspiring people. It is, of course, a significant investment in terms of time and workload, but the mission is definitely worth it. I will forever treasure in my heart the laughter and smiles of the students of Richard Toll’s farm school, their sense of hospitality, and the immense hope they embody for the future generations of this beautiful country.
More information on the Solidarity Bankers’ programme here.
My thanks to Eric Campos, Vincent Brousseau, Céline Hyon-Naudin, Aurélie Béchara and Maria-Teresa Calvo from Grameen Crédit Agricole Foundation for their support throughout the mission and the trust they placed in me . A huge thank you to Bagoré, Jean, Ortence, Emma and the entire Laiterie team for their warm welcome, to Arona for introducing me to St Louis, Djoudj, Richard Toll and the farm school, to Florence Pelletier, Aurélie Cacciotti and Christian Bodenes of Crédit Agricole SA and to Jean-Luc Creach, Managing Director of UNEXO, without whom I would not have been able to live this experience.