African Milling School

The next head miller starts here

Bühler’s African Milling School in Nairobi, Kenya provides a unique combination of hands-on practical and theoretical training to millers across Africa and the Middle East. With global events creating new challenges and opportunities for the milling sector, the school is now expanding its offering to provide further support to the wider food and feed industries and to help drive growth and diversification.

The food and feed industries have their fair share of challenges amid global uncertainties. Apart from rising raw material costs and tight supply chains, concerns abound including intense competition, thin margins, and gaps in the training of the new generation of millers as the older generation go into retirement. Meanwhile populations in many regions of the African continent are growing, and so too is the demand for affordable food products. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has now been declared a non-emergency health concern, it is one of several factors, including conflict, weather extremes, and rising prices, that have triggered a global food crisis.

These issues could reduce the performance of the food and milling industry in the future if not addressed. One company meeting the challenges is Bakhresa Group, an industrial conglomerate based in Tanzania that works primarily in the food and beverage sector. Mounir Bakhressa is the Managing Director and CEO of the Bakhresa Group’s subsidiaries in Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. He sees very clearly the impact these forces have on markets in his region, but he also sees great growth opportunities that can be tapped to boost food security across the continent.


 baking technology class  baking technology class In the baking technology class, students learn about the quality aspects of grain, flour, and bread.

“Our sector is booming. We are seeing growth on the milling side, and we think it will continue. On the other hand, I feel that the flour milling market in the countries we operate in is becoming saturated, so there’s not much room to play,” 

That’s why his company is exploring new ways of growing by producing value-added products such as noodles. Bakhresa Group looks to Bühler to support them in this journey, not just with technology, solutions, and services, but also by providing education and training for their millers and managers. The African Milling School (AMS) was established in Nairobi, Kenya by Bühler in 2015 to improve grain processing know-how. Equipped with a state-of-the-art in-house milling plant, an analytics laboratory, and classrooms, the school weaves together theory classes with hands-on training. This was a big gap in most African education and training institutions, and addressing it makes AMS special. More than 1,200 trainees have graduated from the school to date.

Increasing resilience and sustainability

“The milling industry previously suffered due to a lack of practical training,” says Bakhressa. “Before the African Milling School was set up, millers would either send trainees outside the continent or source expensive foreign professionals. This was not sustainable financially.”

Bakhressa, for instance, attended his executive course in Switzerland. “I realized that we needed such a facility somewhere in Africa where we could easily send our apprentices,” he explains. “Now, people with no background in milling want to come to work in our mill to get the AMS scholarship. And with that training we get a professional who knows how to address issues quickly without waiting for the head miller. They now know how to get a good extraction and how to lower the kilowatts per tonne, and they understand how this impacts the business.”

practical class with students practical class with students Berryl Ochieng, Laboratory Technician and Trainer, shows students how to check the dough extensibility.
Milling school equipment Milling school equipment The school is situated in Ruiru, Nairobi, just 25 minutes from Nairobi airport, and offers three floors of classrooms, equipment, and labs.

Bakhresa Group sent two of its top managers from different subsidiaries to attend the AMS executive training offered in French in June 2023, and three millers for the apprentice miller program in January 2023. With the help of AMS and Bühler, the company has already commenced the path of value addition in some production lines.

Africa has 24 percent of the world’s agricultural land, yet a large proportion of grain has to be imported from outside the continent. This is often due to declining harvests. But there are other causes. Poor handling of grain also leads to regular losses and contamination. With improved technology in cleaning, drying, and silo storage, many of these challenges can be overcome. But technology alone provides only part of the answer – the rest is provided by training and education.

“We really need to approach milling in the most efficient way possible to make the industry more resilient and more sustainable. This is a very big topic and one that is close to my heart,” says Priscilla Bakalian, Head of Training at the AMS. “We cover everything from maintenance and food safety to raw material handling. We must ensure we are not losing any of these raw materials because of post-harvest losses and bad storage conditions.”

Bakalian gives the example of a Kenyan miller who recently completed the first module of the apprenticeship program at the AMS. When he applied the knowledge he gained on the course on the job, he was able to lower electricity consumption at his mill by 8 kilowatts per tonne of flour produced. “That translated into a very big financial gain,” 


sample table sample table At the sample table, students can compare a variety of flour samples from different passages in the mill.
We need to generate the new future millers and head millers and they need to have the training to produce the products the consumer of tomorrow wants.

Mounir Bakhressa, Managing Director and CEO of Bakhresa Group for Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique

Evolving to meet today’s challenges

The AMS continues to evolve. It is already more than a year into restrategizing to help food industries bounce back to their full fighting weight after the pandemic. As part of the preparation, AMS brought in Bakalian, a fourth-generation flour miller from Lebanon, fluent in Arabic, English, French, and German. Under her guidance, AMS is expanding its training portfolio, with the aim of supporting a larger part of the food industry in Africa, Middle East, and India – its core markets.

“The school has, since its foundation, mainly focused on wheat and maize milling. Going forward, we are broadening the scope to include millet, sorghum, pulses, nuts, coffee, and baking and consumer foods, as well as feeds, because we know the market is changing. It is important to consider locally available crops to ensure food security and invest in value-added products to serve market opportunities and increase profitability,” explains Bakalian.

The state-of-the-art facility, located 25 minutes from Nairobi airport, includes classrooms, a laboratory, and a fully equipped school mill. AMS is transforming step by step from a milling school into a grain processing knowledge and training center. As of 2023, it also includes training courses on coffee handling and roasting.


Milling School Team Milling School Team The team at the African Milling School, from left to right: Brian Obino, Customer Service Order Execution Officer; Daniel Mungai, Technical Teacher; Wangui Kinyori, Service Engineer; Priscilla Bakalian, Head of Training; Berryl Ochieng, Laboratory Technician and Trainer.
  • Who: African Milling School
  • Where: Nairobi, Kenya
  • When: The African Milling School was founded in 2015 to provide theoretical and practical training for the next generation of millers.
  • What: The school offers comprehensive and intensive training from the Apprenticeship Program to the Head Millers Program and Milling for Executives, as well as short courses on Coffee Handling and Roasting, Mechanical Maintenance, Electrical Maintenance, Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and Automation Maintenance, Baking Technology, and Lab Analytics.
  • Customers: Over 1,200 students have graduated from AMS to date, with 174 students graduating from the 2-year apprenticeship program so far.

The AMS flagship long course, a two-year apprenticeship, is split into four modules, each consisting of one month of classroom instruction. In between, the students apply their newly acquired skills in their companies. Other long courses include the Head Miller program – offered for either apprenticeship graduates or those already with extensive experience working as millers – and the Intensive Milling program offered in French.

Technical staff from different departments can benefit from the extensive AMS short course portfolio ranging from Electrical Maintenance and Mechanical Maintenance to Baking Technology Grain and Flour Analytics. As pushing for increased sustainability in the food and feed industries requires a more circular approach to grain processing, the AMS has reinforced its animal nutrition and aqua feed course offerings. From September 2023, the school will, for the first time ever, offer a new course: Feed Milling for Executives.

For trainees, the courses boost their technical abilities and improve general safety in the milling industry. The benefit for the companies that send their staff to the school is that they can improve efficiency and build sustainability. All the training sessions are conducted in English and French, with an option for Arabic.


Exchanging, empowering, expanding

The training is adapted to the students’ individual needs, based on intensive exchange between the trainees and the AMS staff. Since Bakalian joined AMS in November 2022, she has taught 120 trainees, both executives and apprentices from various countries, on the 2-year program.

Many executives attend the one-week Milling for Executives course, which equips decision makers with technical knowledge and practical skills to cut post-harvest losses, improve quality standards, and move into food products with added value. Million Chingombe from Zimbabwe is among those who completed the training, held in Nairobi in June 2023.

 He is the Human Resources Manager at Mega Market Milling Pvt Ltd., a leading milling company in Zimbabwe which, since December 2022, has expanded into commercial wheat milling. It is a huge, capital-intensive investment, and therefore the firm cannot afford any misses.

“We need to be empowered in terms of knowing the process for us to make informed decisions relating to all milling operations such as the procurement of wheat, its storage, quality control, and contracts,” Chingombe explains. “Bühler is known for the quality of equipment and support they give to customers, and we thought it was best to learn from the best.”

Wagui Kinyori Wagui Kinyori Wagui Kinyori, Service Engineer, checks the grinding gaps on the roller stands.

We need to be empowered in terms of knowing the process for us to make informed decisions relating to all milling operations; procurement of wheat, quality control, and contracts.

Million Chingombe, Human Resources Manager at Mega Market Milling Pvt Ltd., Zimbabwe

Supporting growth

Million Chingombe is optimistic that with proper training and application, Mega Market Milling will continue expanding its market share by providing higher quality products. He now understands the key stages of the milling process, he says, and will share important lessons with his team for continuous improvement. Back home, he wants to ensure that his organization continues to leverage such training programs to compete and win in the market.

Like Chingombe, Sanjay Yenugwar also attended the Milling for Executives course. He works for Kenya’s Capwell Industries Ltd. Amid the uptick in the price of flour in Kenya due to grain shortages, the company was among millers the government picked last year to distribute subsidized maize flour for a period. Since then, Kenyans have been urged to diversify and embrace other food alternatives, a niche Capwell Industries is now looking to exploit by producing flour, rice, and pasta brands. As such, the firm is now looking to have a reliable in-house wheat milling facility to produce the right quality of flour required to make biscuits.

We really need to approach milling in the most efficient way possible to make the industry more resilient and more sustainable. This is a very big topic and one that is close to my heart.

Priscilla Bakalian, Head of Training at the African Milling School

This is one of the many reasons why Sanjay Yenugwar, the Research and Development Head at Capwell Industries, attended the AMS Executive training. “We are diversifying from milling to value-added products. I realized we need the knowledge to get biscuit flour out of wheat. Getting the best quality of biscuit is a necessity that requires the best raw materials and milling processes,” he says.

The training is important to the firm’s overall sustainability in terms of finances and product quality. Yenugwar has over 24 years of experience in the biscuits and confectionery industry across East Africa markets. He says the company wants to stop sourcing biscuit flour from third parties as part of its cost-cutting measures. “Why should we purchase from outside when we have an in-house wheat milling facility?” Yenugwar says. “We are just coming into the biscuits market, so our goal is to shift the milling capacity we have into biscuit flour. It is the right time for me to start sharing the secrets behind milling processes and quality with my colleagues.”

The growing shift to value addition means the continent will need more investment, and Bühler is helping to drive this. “We do a lot more than milling in this region. In East Africa, Bühler also provides grain storage, green coffee handling, coffee roasting, biscuits, pasta, feed milling, and other solutions,” says Matthias Grabe, Managing Director of Bühler East Africa.


Priscilla Bakalian Priscilla Bakalian Priscilla Bakalian is Head of Training. Knowledge is transferred to the students through theory as well as practical classes.

Thinking ahead

From bringing the training facility nearer to the markets in Africa and the Middle East, to offering quality expertise, the impact of AMS is wide-ranging and always future-oriented. Its ethos is summed up by Grabe: “As a business playing in rapidly changing markets, you should not be where the ball is, but where the ball will be in future. That is how we aim to support our customers.”

Mounir Bakhressa agrees: “As we grow, we need to think ahead, for example, about resourcing talent for our company. So, starting now, we need to generate the new future millers and head millers and they need to have the training to produce the products the consumer of tomorrow wants.”


We are diversifying from milling to value-added products. I realized we need the knowledge to get biscuit flour out of wheat.

Sanjay Yenugwar, Research and Development Head at Capwell Industries Ltd., Kenya

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