Grace Obike
Mamadou Aliou DIALLO

Guinea: Lella, the young enterprise, competes with imported products

Madina Dansoko

Guinea: Lella, the young enterprise, competes with imported products

It is rare to find women who own broiler production and processing businesses in Guinea. However, Madina Dansoko has taken an unusual step that puts her at the top of the pack. Aged 35, she has been running Lella SARL, a broiler production and processing company for non-imported fresh products, located in the upper suburbs of Conakry, for the past 4 years. She is also the first Guinean to set up a modern poultry slaughterhouse.

The said slaughterhouse is located 70 km from Conakry. This agro-industry produces 3,000 chickens a day. The cost of the project is 3 billion GNF (30,000 euros), with about 90% of the 30 direct employees being women, mainly from the youth.
Born in Dalaba, in the north-east of Guinea, she is the eldest of a monogamous family. As a mother of four children, Madina has set herself the challenge of "curbing broiler imports in favour of local production".
The chickens she raises in Guinea are made into sausages, burgers, sausages, etc. The company's ambition is to be the market leader in charcuterie and food processing in Guinea. With her team of 30 employees, the majority of whom are women, Ms Diallo is fighting a man's battle to "develop the food industry" in her country.


Her background

Madina Dansoko did not study hard to become an entrepreneur. Born in a locality where schooling for children is not a priority, her parents sent her to Conakry, far from the village. "My parents chose to send me to a boarding school to avoid staying with the family," she recalls. After her Primary School Certificate (CEP), she returned to Labé where her father was living with his family after he retired. Fingers crossed, a slight smile on her face, Madina recalls that it was in Labé that she did her secondary schooling.

She explains: "Contrary to what many people think, I didn't do much studying. After my BEPC (brevet d’étude du premier cycle), I got married. Then I did three years of training in accounting in a professional school.

When asked why she did not continue her studies, the smiling entrepreneur, with her hand to her left ear, says: "During the school year and the holidays, I worked in the family business. And I was paid a little. School and work were all mixed up. Being the eldest in the family, my father wanted his children to be involved and to do everything he did.

Animal husbandry and farming are not activities that a 15 to 18 years old wants to be involved in all the time. "As time went on, I liked what he was doing, I embraced it and I still do. Now it's my passion and it's my life," she says with pride. "After all, I got married, but it wasn't a problem to be married and continue studying. However, the business won out.

Ambitions and experience gained from others

Dame Dansoko's ambition to succeed in processing was born early on. With the experience she gained from raising laying hens on her family's farm and from her travels in some West African countries, Dame Dansoko owes her motivation and success to the consistency of her approach.
"On my many trips to Senegal, Mali and Côte d'Ivoire, I have seen that broiler farming is well developed," she says reassuringly, pointing out what has enabled these countries to succeed in the agri-food sector.

"In Senegal, for example, they only consume what they produce, imports are prohibited, in Côte d'Ivoire and Mali, imports are taxed. They favour local production. And it also makes me want to offer all Guineans these good things because we can do it here," she says.

Missed experiences, birth of Lella

In 2011," she recalls, "I tried to make broilers with a quantity of 300 chickens. But I didn't succeed because you have to have the right weight at the right time. I stopped afterwards because it was not known in Guinea.

While her main ambition is to curb broiler imports, Madina Dansoko failed to achieve this ambition in her first attempts. However, each time she goes out of the country, she notices that things are changing elsewhere. So, she decided to try again, and again. "It didn't work and it didn't discourage me either, until I found the right formula to get the right weight on the right date.

From imperfection to perfection

The first time Dame Dansoko decided to produce broilers and offer them to supermarkets in Conakry was a milestone for her perseverance and "success" today.
"The first time I plucked, packed and refrigerated, I put it in a cooler and offered it to supermarkets. The first supermarket I went to was run by a Lebanese woman. As soon as I opened my cooler and lifted the chicken, she told me that they don't sell this kind of product here," she recalls with a laugh. Ms. Diallo quickly learned her lesson. "I realised that it's not well packaged and that it was my first experience.

Madina did not stop there. She went to another supermarket, also run by a Lebanese woman, who was categorical: "We don't sell Guinean products. Everything we sell here is imported," (she told me), the entrepreneur recalls.

"I was really shocked. It didn't discourage me. Rather, the rejection made me want to prove to them that it is possible to produce locally and distribute in supermarkets. I told myself that supermarkets should sell Guinean products in Guinea. I set out to make a product suitable for supermarkets. I struggled to find packaging to improve the quality. And today it works," says the woman who does not like to think about failure.
To achieve perfection, the pioneer of broiler processing in Guinea met her mentor in charcuterie at an agricultural fair in Dakar. She is a French woman who sells charcuterie equipment to small manufacturers. "From Dakar, I went with her to France where I was trained in the use of the equipment and ordered everything I needed to produce," she says.
On her return to Guinea, instead of selling whole chickens, she started selling sausages. Hence the story of the birth of Lella, two years ago, and the arrival of charcuterie in Guinea.
The added value at Lella is to produce 100% locally so that Guineans can consume products consolidated by Guineans too. "We have meat produced here that does not have GMOs. The animals we raise here eat more or less the same food as we do. Corn, tuna, ... it's healthy and fresh".

What about the challenges?

The main challenge facing the promoter of Lella is the local human resource, qualified in her field. "I say to myself that it is more difficult to have a competent employee here than to have the capital to work. You can have the capital, but if you don't have the skills, it's nothing," she says.

Madina Dansoko's difficulties are related to production, among other things, due to the lack of electricity and water. She says: "The lack of electricity has a big impact on the conservation of our products.

The lack of knowledge of Lella products on the Guinean market is another handicap, says the director. "At the level of product distribution, it is very complicated because it is a new product on the market. Guineans are not used to buying it locally. They are used in imported products. They should trust us on hygiene," she reassures.

Also, the products are having trouble finding a place to sell in some supermarkets. In a market where competition is tough, despite the difference in quality, Lella pays a little more than imported products. "This competition is a bit difficult when you sell a product and you are more expensive than your competitor. The price difference is difficult for restaurants and hotels. But for supermarkets, it's fine. Because whoever comes in, if they want it, they buy it," admits Madinan Dansoko.

In order to sell their products, Lella makes her customers aware by giving them samples of broilers and cold cuts. "We let everyone choose the product that suits them. Because "our broilers are easy to cook, they have more taste, they are fresh and natural. The imported ones are cull chickens," says Dame Dansoko.

At present, Dame Diallo's efforts are focused on building a slaughterhouse before starting to communicate about the products. "When you communicate, you hope that customers will come and that you will have something to distribute. For the moment, I'm going to supermarkets, hotels and restaurants to promote our products," she explains.

Secret of success

The woman who "aims very high" says she is still taking her first steps. She doesn't consider what she has done so far to be a success. "I've just started," she says. "But I would say that the risk, the taste for quality, the permanent desire to succeed are my secrets," concludes Madina Dansoko, still smiling.

Nice to meet you

Contact us:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Powered by Kagin's consulting
Designed by MI design