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Exploring the Dairy Potential in West Africa

17 October 2019

Ese Okpomo, Market Specialist, West Africa, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board



West Africa is the westernmost region of Africa excluding Morocco. The region comprises of 16 countries. It is an area rich with various natural resources including Oil, Gold, Cocoa, Timber, Cotton amongst others yet it has some of the poorest countries in the world. The West African region is a complex political terrain that has gone through some troubled period.



The population of this region estimated at 362 million people to reach 810 million people by 2050. The region covers 6.1 million square km. The Atlantic Ocean and the Sahara Desert, order the region on different sides.



West Africa is a mixed region with mostly Anglophone and Francophone countries. These 2 blocs determine the cultural, behavioural, consumption attitude of the people in these countries. The Anglophone countries, which were previously under the British rule are very influenced by the British culture. The Francophone countries on the other hand, were French ruled and had the  assimilation system making them think, act and believe they are French as such all they do is French Inspired.  



The West African dairy palette is accustomed to reconstituted milk, and this is the taste they understand as fresh milk. In the Francophone countries the large consumption of dairy is in UHT milk, cheese and also Yoghurts; while in Anglophone countries milk is used as a creamer and reconstituted into evaporated milk, or repacked into smaller portions in powder and also drinking yoghurts and flavoured milk.



In terms of dairy consumption, Africa in general is reported to have only 64 days per year milk consumption per capita for comparison in North America it is 331 days milk consumption per capita. Nigeria, which accounts for two thirds of West Africa population, the per capita consumption of milk is 11.2 litres which is very low compared to countries like Ireland (125 L) South Africa (28.6L) China (20.3L). 



In West Africa, an average of €3.2bn is spent on dairy, out of this 44% is spent on Milk powder. Africa is one market where there is a major increase dairy consumption.




Many African markets are part of the fastest growing economies in the world. The combination of population growth, economic growth, increase in dairy consumption, urbanisation leading to increased demand for convenience food and value added products, provides huge opportunities for Irish dairy companies to grow their brands and also expand their reach with the local dairy processors.