Palm oil, development and NigeriaHOW A STARTUP IS CHANGING THE SECTOR

In Nigeria, the startup Releaf works on a daily basis to enable small-scale oil palm farmers to improve their living and working conditions. In particular, Releaf gives them access to the equipment they need to process their crops, encouraging innovation and increasing yields.

Thanks to this, the foundations are being laid for a more solid and profitable development of the sector in the country. Farmers often use outdated harvesting techniques, resulting in poor quality raw materials and waste during the harvesting process. If the Nigerian startup’s activities were to prove successful, the sector could employ many more people, increasing sales and its role in the country’s development. This would have a significant social and economic impact.


The oil palm originated in Africa. Specifically, in West and Central Africa. For hundreds of years, the oil produced by this plant has been used as cooking oil. Today, palm oil has multiple uses besides food, such as in cosmetics.

Despite its original spread within the African continent, the largest palm oil producing countries are now located in Asia or South America. It seems counter-intuitive, but the oil industry in Africa is not particularly developed compared to other countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia. The reason? In addition to logistical and organizational difficulties, the lack of innovation prevents African states from making the quantum leap to exporting their products worldwide.

In Nigeria, for example, there has been a steady decline in exports due to a decrease in production.  Nigeria is the largest consumer of palm oil in Africa, with a population of 197 million in 2018. In the same year, the nation consumedabout 3 million tonnes of fats and oils, with palm oil accounting for 44.7% of the total (or 1.34 million tonnes). In the same period, production stood at 1.02 million tonnes resulting in a supply deficit of 0.32 million tonnes. Thus, imported.

In the early 1960s, Nigeria was the world’s largest producer of palm oil with a global market share of 43%. Today, it is the 5th largest producer with less than 2% of the total global market production of 74.08 million tonnes.


Developing the palm oil sector in the country means creating bthroughout the supply chain. The oil palm industry is one of the most effective ways to alleviate poverty, increase food security and ensure economic stability in Nigeria.

It has the potential to employ millions of unskilled and semi-skilled people. Research in the International Journal of Management Sciences and Business Research on the economic importance of palm oil to Nigeria cites high numbers for jobs generated by the sector, talking of 8 million jobs. The revitalisation of the oil palm sector, in fact, has the ability to rapidly promote the country’s economic development due to its various products and uses.

More than 80% of Nigeria’s palm oil is produced by small-scale farmers. Empowering them therefore means working directly towards solving the problem and achieving a shared development outcome.


The Nigerian startup “Releaf” was founded in 2015 by a group of cousins, born in Nigeria but who lived, studied and worked in the United States. A symbol for the country’s diaspora, where millions of young people annually move away from Nigeria to seek new opportunities.

Their idea is to facilitate the cultivation of oil palms in the country as an engine for economic and social development. All this, in a sustainable way. Working alongside the small farmers, they provide technology without any kind of interest rate, while also providing them with new know-how and new ways to sell their product. By speeding up the sales process, they also ensure faster returns for farmers who can invest further in their activities. By improving tools, yields per hectare and reducing waste.

The Releaf guys have bet on the b, through a sector that has all the potential to create employment and opportunities for the whole territory.

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