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10th Africa Sugar Interview Series: Subhash Abeywickrama, Chief Operating Officer and Director, Sunbird Bioenergy, Sierra Leone

11 Aug 2020, by Informa Connect Insights

Interview Session with Subhash Abeywickrama, Chief Operating Officer and Director, Sunbird Bioenergy, Sierra Leone

Give us a short insight into what you’ll be speaking on at the event.

The objective of my presentation is to show that sugar cane is a versatile crop that can be used for food and energy production. Crops can contribute to the development of Africa by producing sugar, ethanol and other sugarcane-based products for the continental markets, and at the same time generating bio-electricity from the process of burning the bagasse which is a renewable feedstock.

The sugar market in Africa is huge, and it will continue to grow with population and income growth. Most of the sugar consumed in the West African region is imported, and electricity is still a serious challenge on the sub-region. That is where sugarcane plantations can help as a valuable crop for Africa. Ethanol has proven to be the most efficient fuel and can compete with gasoline in Africa.

I’d be discussing specifically on the business model of Sunbird Bioenergy, which could be replicated across Africa.

We started with one product, one market model. We produced ethanol for the EU markets. Now we are diversifying our products, and also our markets. We are currently producing ENA, bioethanol, sugar and bio-electricity for the local market in Sierra Leone and regional markets in Liberia and Guinea.


What are the current issues impacting Africa’s sugar industry, and where do you see growth opportunities?

Global prices of sugar may be less than production costs in West Africa. Thus, governments need to provide incentives for investment into sugar due to the political and socio-economic significance of the commodity.

Sugar production can strengthen national economies through thousands of jobs, millions of dollars paid in taxes and other financial obligations to government and host communities, foreign exchange saved due to import substitution, high carbon sequestration and other social impacts of sugar production and marketing.

Most smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone are not familiar with sugarcane production, and therefore out-grower schemes can prove challenging without proper training.


What conversations are you looking forward to having at the 10th Africa Sugar Conference?

Network with other sugar producers on the continent, learn more about sugar production and marketing in the SADC region where sugar production is more established. I’ll also be exploring business possibilities in the SADC as our investors are currently considering mergers or acquisitions in the SADC and other regions in Africa.



Subhash Abeywickrama
Chief Operating Officer and Director
Sunbird Bioenergy, Sierra Leone

Subhash Abeywickrama will be presenting “The World’s Largest Biomass to Power Generation Project: Sunbird Bioenergy’s US$550m Investment in Sierra Leone” at the 10th Africa Sugar 2020.


Delivered digitally from 20 – 22 October 2020, the 10th Africa Sugar brings together top players and industry heavyweights across Africa to highlight the latest market insights and centre-stage key case studies.

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