Green solutions for Senegal’s growing food industry

Business is booming for Senegal’s food manufacturing industry, and green solutions are urgently needed to ensure the sector’s carbon footprint does not spiral out of control. And with a leading food company reaping the benefits from energy efficiency measures introduced under a government-run, UNIDO-back initiative, others are likely to follow.

In 2021, when Saliou Diop, Industrial Director at food condiment manufacturer SENICO SA, took up his post, reducing the company’s energy bill was his first priority.

“My role is to improve the cost of our products, and one of the biggest costs – besides the raw material and packaging – is energy,” he says. “My other motivation is about how we impact our environment – how we impact and how we can improve.”

Senegalese Industrie et Commerce (SENICO SA) was founded in 1989 by two brothers. Originally a tea marketing company, it now produces, packages and markets a huge array of food products; vinegar, tea, mayonnaise, butter and chocolate are among its most popular items. From humble beginnings, it now has three factories, and exports to other countries in Africa as well as South America and the United States.

But this success has seen the company’s carbon footprint rocket. In 2020, it consumed 2,415,385 kilowatts of energy, all from expensive fossil fuels.

Before Saliou arrived at SENICO SA, work was already underway to reduce the company’s environmental impact and its energy bill, driven by a desire to contribute to national climate policies. But when Saliou heard UNIDO and BMN [the Ministry of Commerce’s Upgrading Office] were offering 10 companies technical support and skills building to adopt low-carbon technologies and energy efficient measures, he seized the opportunity to propel the company’s green vision forward.

“Sustainability is an investment,” says Saliou. “But we are doing business, so we cannot always put the money we need into it. We should, but at a certain time we have limitations. When we have a programme like this, which brings expertise and support, it helps us to move faster than we would if we were on that journey alone. We have ideas, but we’re not experts.

The cost-saving cycle

In February 2022, the programme conducted a feasibility study at SENICO SA’s flagship factory in Diamniadio Industrial Park, 30 kilometres outside of Dakar.

Of the recommendations made, two energy efficient measures were implemented. The first swapped the production area’s four industrial air conditioning units, which worked on automatic timers so cooled the air regardless of temperature, to a ventilation system that senses and responds to actual air conditions. This change had made a 30% energy saving, equating to annual energy gains of around 284,700 kilowatts.

A second measure, which will be fully operational in September 2022, will replace the factory’s four air compressors with one energy-efficient unit. Air compression is part of the bottling process, and by using a compressor that can vary its power to match demand, rather than one that operates at a fixed speed, an energy saving of 20-25% will be made.

SENICO SA has now set yearly, energy saving targets. All the money saved from the current initiatives will be reinvested in other energy saving measures to meet these goals.

Changing mindsets

Beyond energy and CO2 savings, the impact of UNIDO’s programme can be seen in the small changes staff are making in their everyday lives.

At lunchtime, for example, factory lights are being turned off. Air conditioning too, when it’s not needed. Saliou says he sees “lots of people being champions, trying to pull others up to the same level as them in terms of sustainability”. He is also seeing the influence of the pilot on other manufacturers – something SENICO SA intends to encourage.

“We see some companies are also starting to do the same… When we have more data we will profile what we are doing, and show companies how they can impact the environment in a more positive way.”

Leading the way

With his eyes set firmly on the future, Saliou is now working with one of Senegal’s biggest universities on a project that will capture and treat rainwater to clean production lines. A solar energy project is also close to completion. Saliou is looking for external investment in both projects, and others. For financial and ethical reasons, he is determined to succeed.

He says: “If you do not care about the environment, it will be very difficult to even export to some countries, and we would like to grow and be present in all the countries of the world. And we are using raw materials, so if we are not impacting positively on the environment, the cost of those raw materials will continue to increase.

“But there are human motivations too. We are a poor country. We cannot continue to lose energy and water, it’s very costly for the country and for the people. And if we, one of the biggest consumers of energy, cannot improve how can we expect the population? It is down to us to show how we can impact positively and bring others with us.”

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