SEAF invests in Food Innovation to boost export opportunities for Tunisian SMEs

SEAF, in partnership with Development Finance Corporation (DFC), The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and ABCapital, have announced the close of an investment in Orient Tea, a fast-growing innovative Tunisian food company. The investment was made through SEAF’s Tunisia Resilience Fund and SEAF Covid-19 Global Gender Lens Emergency Loan Finance, an investment vehicle funded by the DFC that focuses on addressing the impact of COVID-19 on SMEs supporting women during the pandemic.

Founded in 2013, Orient Tea is a women-led food company that produces instant natural tea products under the brand Kyufi. Orient Tea operates in Ben Arous, a city in northeastern Tunisia that experienced the early effects of COVID and faced restrictive lockdowns and the closure of key distribution channels. Orient Tea quickly adopted an agile and proactive method to tackle this crisis by pivoting towards retail and B2B networks. To scale, Orient Tea required capital to enhance its digital presence and online brand awareness, as well as improve and extend their warehousing capacity in light of supply chain disruptions.

Through a gender lens approach, SEAF’s investment in Orient Tea was designed to support the Company’s growth and commitment to building an inclusive and sustainable business in the agri-food sector. As a women-led company, 45% of Orient Tea’s full-time employees are women and 80% of contracted farm workers are women, supporting close to 500 indirect and direct jobs. With SEAF’s funding, Orient Tea can increase its production capacity, expand into new export markets, and enhance the Company’s positioning while creating jobs and providing sustainable training to smallholder farmers in its network.

“The Tunisian market has been experiencing a challenging time and we are pleased to partner with the Orient Tea as part of their expansion,” shares Jan Cherim, SEAF Vice Chair for Europe & Africa. “We’re proud of work achieved by our team led by Ingrid Chou who worked successfully with ABCapital and Orient Tea to get this deal completed. We anticipate more investment closings similar to this one in the future.”

“ABCapital is delighted to be supporting SEAF through Orient Tea transaction execution and through the implementation of a new, alternative and competitive financing mechanism – the Tunisian Resilience Fund, that is not only catalyzing additional capital for Tunisian SMEs but supporting their post-COVID resilience plans and unlocking their growth potential,” Shared Hela Jelassi and Anis Borchani, Managing Partners at ABCapital. “We believe that SEAF’s Gender Lens Investing approach is innovative and unique in the Tunisian landscape and it is propelling Tunisian SMEs’ efforts to develop inclusive and impact-driven businesses,” they concluded.

“USAID/Tunisia is committed to increasing the flow of capital to high-potential Tunisian businesses,” says USAID Mission Director Scott Dobberstein. “We are proud to support investment facilities that meet the unique needs of the SME economy and support sustainable development outcomes.” Further, the benefits go beyond direct funding. “Enterprises such as Orient Tea now have access to qualitative tools—such as impact monitoring systems, gender analyses, and access to new markets—to increase their investment readiness and drive inclusive economic growth,” Dobberstein concludes.

“The adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on financial markets continue to disrupt many businesses in developing countries, especially those owned by women,” said Jim Polan, Vice President of DFC’s Office of Development Credit. “DFC is proud to work with SEAF to support innovative transactions like Orient Tea that provide economic relief and positive development impact.”

This article was originally published by SEAF.