Feronia Inc

Central Africa,Africa Food and agriculture

Feronia Inc is an agricultural production and processing business in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At its heart lies a long-established palm oil business, Plantations et Huileries du Congo S.A (PHC), which has three remote plantations: Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka.

Set up by Lever Brothers in 1911 and once one of the most important businesses in the DRC, the business suffered decades of under-investment due to the civil conflict in the DRC prior to its acquisition by Feronia in 2009. Feronia was established to facilitate the rebuilding of the business from a state of near-collapse.

Following substantial investments, the company now has over 20,000 planted hectares and three functioning mills, making it one of the largest palm oil businesses in Africa.

The produce is entirely consumed within the DRC which is historically a strong consumer and producer of palm oil. It is now a substantial net importer.

This investment was made when British International Investment was named CDC Group.

Our investment

In late 2013, CDC invested $18.1 million in Feronia to support the revival of its existing plantation business in the DRC (i.e. Plantations et Huileries du Congo SA or “PHC”), which provides thousands of direct jobs and social infrastructure in some of the country's remotest communities. A sum of $3.6 million was ring-fenced for an environmental and social governance loan. CDC has made a number of follow-on investments over the years taking our total investment into the company to over $80m. In 2020, CDC exited its equity stake but continues to remain as a lender to PHC  alongside other DFIs.

  • Safeguard the livelihoods of workers and their dependants for whom Feronia is the only significant source of employment (SDG 8.5).
  • Improve the provision of basic amenities such as potable water, housing stock, sanitation, healthcare and education (SDG 1.4).

Direct: CDC’s investment will support the revival of the company’s abandoned plantations through replanting and making other investments that are necessary to create a commercially viable palm oil business. Between 2013 and 2020, production increased by over 500 per cent due to the construction of two new mills at a cost of almost $28 million and an investment of $39 million on new trees and other agricultural improvements.

Stakeholder Geography Characteristics

DRC (category ‘A’ country); PHC’s three plantations – Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka – are located in some of the poorest and most remote provinces of the DRC (Equateur and Orientale).

Mostly low-skilled agricultural labour.


DRC (category ‘A’ country); PHC’s three plantations – Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka – are located in some of the poorest and most remote provinces of the DRC (Equateur and Orientale).

High levels of poverty and reliance on informal employment opportunities and subsistence agriculture. In 2018, 72 per cent of the DRC’s population was living on less than $1.90 per day (World Bank).

Scale Depth/Duration
  • Employees: In 2020, Feronia employed approximately 4,500 permanent workers and 3,500 contractors, thus supporting more than 50,000 people directly (through the wage multiplier, assuming approximately 7 people per household).
  • Communities: Approximately 100,000 people live within or adjacent to the plantations and benefit from the social infrastructure funded and operated by PHC.
  • Employees: Between 2013 and 2020, PHC has more than doubled staff wages which are now substantially above the minimum wage in DRC, as well as improved benefits including sick pay, holiday pay and healthcare. Between 2013 and 2020, around $7m has been spent on restoring clean water provision, housing, healthcare and educational facilities.
  • Duration: Impact is expected to be long-lasting (more than 10 years) but is conditional on the company’s ability to become commercially sustainable.
Grid Score Contribution


To help us direct our investments, we use a tool called the Development Impact Grid. The Grid scores every investment we plan out of a score of four, based on two factors: the difficulty of investing in the country and whether investment in that sector will lead to jobs.

  • Financial: Commercial investors have limited appetite to invest in primary agriculture in the DRC.
  • Value-add: CDC has provided significant environmental and social support since 2013. In 2019, CDC Plus co-funded a major technical assistance programme implemented by the NGO Earthworm Foundation to support the company in building ESG capacity and strengthening its engagement with local communities.
  • Mobilisation: Since 2013, CDC has helped to mobilise over $80 million from both DFIs and commercial investors.
  • Execution: The impact case relies on the company’s ability to become financially sustainable. Besides execution risks associated with primary agriculture, the context in which the company operates is remote and extremely complex. The DRC ranks 183th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business index.
  • External: The company’s success is impacted by various external factors, including commodity price risk (i.e. the price of palm oil has significantly decreased in recent years), political risk (e.g. unrest around presidential elections, ongoing conflict in parts of the DRC), as well as multiple disease outbreaks (i.e. Ebola, COVID-19).

Environmental and social aspects

We have worked closely with Feronia’s management to develop and implement better environmental and social (E&S) practices since we invested in the company in 2013. In particular, we ringfenced a $3.6 million E&S loan for urgent social infrastructure (including healthcare, water boreholes and housing) as well as improvements in health and safety and labour practices. Since then, a further $4.8 million has been spent on E&S activities.

In addition to the social infrastructure, much has been done to develop an understanding of the current environmental and social pressures in and around the plantations. Feronia is committed to zero deforestation and will replant historical palm oil plantation areas, which will avoid clearance of remaining forest adjacent to the plantations.

Key facts


Since 2012, we’ve only invested in Africa and South Asia. Investments outside these regions are from our pre-2012 portfolio.

Africa, Central Africa
Democratic Republic of Congo

We have seven priority sectors. However, we continue to invest outside these sectors, largely in the most challenging regions, as new investment supporting any sector helps to underpin the private sector, and create jobs and livelihoods for people.

Food and agriculture
Investment type

We provide capital in three broad ways: direct equity, debt, and intermediated equity (principally through investment funds).

Direct Equity
Start date

For direct investments, this is the date British International Investment committed capital to the business or project.

For funds, this is the date that British International Investment committed capital to the fund.

For underlying fund investments, this is the date that the fund invested capital into the business.e

November 2013
End date

For direct equity investments, this is the date at which British International Investment exited the investment.

For debt investments, this is the date at which the final debt repayment was made.

For funds, this is the date at which the fund was terminated.

For underlying fund investments, this is the date at which the fund manager exited the investment.

November 2020

For direct investments, this is the total amount that British International Investment has committed to the business or project (it may be a combination of equity and debt).

For funds, this is the total amount that British International Investment has committed to the fund.


This is the investee company’s place of incorporation; or a fund’s jurisdiction.


We are now British International Investment