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Horizon Plantations, an emerging agro-specialized business owned by Africa’s second richest black person, plans to compete with world’s leading banana producers following acquisition of several state enterprises.

Proprietor of Horizon Plantations and MIDROC Ethiopia, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi on Thursday, April 4, 2013 signed over 1.1 billion Birrdeal with the Privatization and Public Enterprises Supervisory Agency (PPESA) for the total purchase of five state owned firms that include Upper Awash Agro-Industry, Gojeb Agriculture Development and the Coffee Processing and Warehouse Enterprise.
Horizon will undertake expansion works at the three enterprises, according to a statement by the company.
Bought at 35.1 million Birr Gojeb Agriculture Development will see expansion works worth much more than its purchase price with a special focus on introducing a 500 hectares banana plantation.
“With the new banana plantation development to be introduced at Gojeb, the plan is to compete with leading global banana producers such as India, Philippines and Ecuador,” reads the statement distributed at the purchase agreement signing ceremony at the Sheraton Addis.
Soil analysis and other feasibility studies for Gojeb were undertaken by European and Israeli companies and contract for turnkey projects will be signed this month, al-Amoudi said after signing bulky documents with PPESA’s Director General, Beyene Gebremeskel.
The 15 million dollars expansion project at Gojeb, which includes the introduction of modern agricultural technologies, will make the enterprise diversify from its traditional specialization on maize production to include fruits mainly for export market.
Similarly, al-Amoudi will spend 430 million birr to expand the Upper Awash Agro-Industry over the next five years, and a further over 80 million birr for the Coffee Processing and Warehouse significantly raising Horizon’s portfolio as one of the key MIDROC affiliates and strengthening al-Amoudi’s growing focus on agriculture.
“A lot of people ask me why I don’t focus on petroleum in Ethiopia. My short answer; I have become a farmer,” said the Ethiopian born Saudi tycoon.
Forbes in March 2013 ranked al-Amoudi as Africa’s second and world’s 63rd richest person.  He made his initial fortune in construction in Saudi Arabia, where he continues to add to his project portfolio with new projects for King Saud University and a new medical city complex for the Ministry of Interior. He also owns oil refineries in Morocco and Sweden and oil fields off South West Africa.
Al-Amoudi is also the biggest individual investor in Ethiopia with a portfolio of interests from hotels and gold mines to agriculture and cement. His Ethiopian business under MIDROC Ethiopia, is the second largest employer in the country, after the government. One of his latest business Derba Cement, is making waves in Ethiopia with low-priced offerings.
His relatively newest business in Ethiopia, Horizon Plantations, bought the three state enterprises last month winning PPESA’s bid which also attracted foreign companies.
The PPESA had put the three enterprises, along with six others, on the auction block on January 9, 2012. When bids were opened in February that year, MIDROC and affiliated companies had caused a stir, offering an aggregate of 1.3 billion Br for five of the nine enterprises.
MIDROC offered 860 million birr for Upper Awash Agro Industry, whilst Horizon Plantations, co-owned by Jemal Ahmed, previously a prominent edible oil importer, offered 228.2 million birr for Coffee Processing and Warehouse Enterprise and 35.1 million birr for Gojeb Agriculture Development.
In addition, Saudi Star Plc, another MIDROC affiliate, with a 10,000ha farm in Gambella region, offered 90 million birr for Abebo Farm Development. Operator of the Lege Dembi gold mine, the National Mining Corporation (NMiC), also made a 110 million Br bid for Ethiopian Marble Enterprises.
(Omer Redi is a Resident Correspondent for Spanish News Agency (EFE) and Managing Director of Ifriqiyah Media and Communications. He can be reached through [email protected] or [email protected])