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Getting women in the driver’s seat of Africa’s agribusiness revolution

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Monica Musonda, CEO Java Foods shares a joke with colleague as they package Supa Cereal Bags (Photo: AfDB)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, November 25, 2019- Monica Musonda, CEO of Zambian food processing company Java Foods,  certainly faced hurdles in her rise to the top, but she overcame them.

“Although the barriers to entry for women can be frustrating, they are often basic and relatively easy to resolve,” she said, playing down her struggles. “My climb up the agribusiness ladder has been challenging but definitely worthwhile.”

Musonda, whose company produces affordable and nutritious food snacks made from local ingredients, is one of just a handful of female agripreneurs who have successfully broken through the proverbial glass ceiling in Africa’s agribusiness industry.

Women are the backbone of Africa’s agricultural sector. From farm to fork, African women are players along the entire agricultural value chain, be it as farmers, livestock breeders, processors, traders, workers, entrepreneurs or consumers. While their influence on the continent’s growing agribusiness industry is undeniable, more solutions are needed to address the gender-specific challenges they face to boost their participation.

The average African woman is a budding entrepreneur either by choice or by circumstance. According to the  Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report 2016/17, the continent has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world, with one in four women starting or managing a business. The agribusiness industry is often the natural focus of this entrepreneurial drive.

Across the continent, women dominate as primary processors post-harvest, as traders with bustling market stalls, as owners of fast food restaurants and with increasingly frequency as manufacturers of packaged ready-to-eat food products. Yet despite this dynamism, female-led agribusinesses tend to remain small, fragmented and informal in nature. They struggle to sustain and scale-up their agribusinesses into well-organized profitable enterprises.

Admittedly, the challenging business environment in many African countries including poor infrastructure and unreliable legal and regulatory systems affects all business activities of both men and women. However, in addition women-led businesses must also grapple with a number of gender-specific constraints, inhibiting their expansion into more lucrative market segments.

Firstly, African women often lack the technical know-how.  Despite the gains in female education on the continent, highly productive agribusinesses require specialized vocational and technical skills in fields such as food safety, food conservation, packaging and product certification which many African women do not readily possess.

Access to finance is the most frequently cited obstacle by African SMEs. Women entrepreneurs face multiple difficulties in securing funding mainly due to lack of collateral in the form of land and other tangible assets and a high-risk perception. According to the African Development Bank, an estimated $42 billion financing gap exists for African women across business value chains, including $15.6 billion in agriculture alone. Women are forced to rely on personal savings and family loans which are rarely enough to fund their businesses to scale.

Thirdly, socio-cultural barriers and stereotypes persist. African women remain the primary caregivers in families meaning that managing those responsibilities while growing a thriving business can become a difficult balancing act.

Over the last two decades, many governments and development institutions have rolled out programs to promote access to finance, agricultural inputs and provide technical support and business training to female agripreneurs. The African Development Bank recently set up the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), a bold pan-African initiative to bridge the financing gap facing women. It adopts a three-pronged approach centered on improving access to finance, providing technical assistance and strengthening the enabling environment.

It often takes very little to make a difference. The capital injection required by the majority of female led SME agribusinesses on the continent is typically less than $50,000. And women have consistently proven to be more credit-worthy than men, usually paying back loans within agreed timeframes. Successful solutions by women for women such as microfinance and saving groups, peer-to-peer training and information sharing should also be reinforced and taken to scale.

More of such initiatives are urgently needed across the continent. Solutions must be based on in-depth engagement with the women business owners themselves to properly understand their frustrations and needs. Tailored programs designed to specifically address these pain points are critical. The Global Gender Summit is a timely opportunity to drive this forward.

Women are central for Africa’s agricultural transformation to be successful, sustainable and inclusive. More African female agripreneurs must be supported to grow and progressively transition into the business segments of agricultural value chains which are most profitable. It has been proven time and time again that when African women thrive the entire society shares in those dividends.

Also Read: Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

By: Mariam Yinusa and Edward Mabaya are Principal Economist and Manager, respectively, in the Agribusiness Development Division of the African Development Bank.

African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

Agriculture

World Poultry Foundation (WPF) launches video series to help Africa’s farmers improve poultry production

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With poultry increasingly a focus for emerging farmers across Africa, the US-based World Poultry Foundation (WPF) has released a series of training videos to help farmers reduce waste and optimise profits.

Feed accounts for up to 70% of the costs of raising poultry, so proper feeding techniques enable farmers to reduce waste, cut production costs and raise healthier birds, says WPF. Water is equally important in poultry farming, with proper water management crucial for healthy birds.

WPF’s training series, with four videos dedicated to production, explains how farmers should store feed, proper feeding of poultry and how to prepare and manage zones of comfort to encourage proper brooding for chicks. The videos also explain the importance of litter in helping to prevent common diseases to improve production and returns.

World Poultry Foundation CEO Randall Ennis says the video series has been developed to address the most common challenges faced by emerging poultry farmers across Africa. “By applying best practice poultry farming methods, farmers can significantly increase their production, their incomes, and the nutrition available to their families and communities,” he says.

The training videos, as well as free checklists and worksheets, are available here

 

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AFEX Raises $50Million for Agri-SMEs, Africa’s First Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper

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AFEX CEO, Ayodeji Balogun (Source: AFEX)

AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited (AFEX), Nigeria’s leading private commodities exchange company, has announced the first Warehouse Receipt Backed Commercial Paper in Africa, with tech-enabled operations and a 24-hour fast cash turnaround for borrowers. With over $50 million raised for Agri-SMEs, this bridges the funding gap between lenders and borrowers in the Nigerian agricultural sector with a commodity-backed instrument – for the first time.

The AFEX financing deal will help eradicate the high cost of procurement incurred by processors by deploying a discounted value of a warehouse receipt distributed among five leading players in the Food and Beverage, Trading Poultry and Animal Feed segments in Nigeria. The receiving companies are top 10 players in their respective segments. They have now been enabled access to a tool for managing price volatility, enabling up to 30% direct savings on prices.

“With our vision to reach a cumulative total of over $5 Billion in investment to the agriculture sector over the next five years, this financing deal is right on track to achieve this goal’’ – said Ayodeji Balogun, CEO, AFEX Commodities Exchange. “As we move towards building a derivatives market in Africa, we want to be able to reduce exposure to price risk for stakeholders, by enabling them to hedge their positions and trade in commodity derivatives.”

The warehouse receipts, which can then be transferred from commodities to a financial asset and listed under the borrower’s portfolio on the AFEX trading platform, will create a sustainable funding structure and address underfunding in the Nigerian agricultural sector. With the warehouse receipt system linked to financiers, the system allows financiers value and marks the commodities’ price to market on a real-time basis.

“Our mission is to provide low-risk working capital facility for stakeholders in the Agro sector, in a way that is transparent and has a very high viable investment return’’ – said Akinyinka Akintunde, VP Financial Markets at AFEX. “As a licensed commodities exchange and warehouse receipt system operator, we deploy a warehouse receipt system and collateral management infrastructure to increase market confidence for both lenders and borrower.”With AFEX’s goal to support Africa’s food security while promoting a fair exchange of value among players in commodity value chains, this deal’s social impact is delivered through market access for farmers and reduced post-harvest losses. AFEX continues to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 5 and 8; no
poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, decent work, and economic growth.

Also Read Cocoa Pricing: Why Public-Private Sector Partnerships are Key to Sustaining the Livelihood of Smallholders Farmers in Africa

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SunCulture secures $11m debt facility from SunFunder syndicate to expand solar irrigation in Africa

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SunCulture CEO and co-Founder, Samir Ibrahim (Source: YouTube)

SunCulture, a solar irrigation company headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, today received the first disbursement from a new $11m syndicated debt facility to expand its operations in sub-Saharan Africa.

The new loan is groundbreaking for the “productive use” solar sector due to its size and its innovative combination of working capital and end-user financing.

Arranged by SunFunder, the co-investors in the facility are Nordic Development Fund; Triodos Investment Management, through its Hivos-Triodos Fund; SunFunder through its Solar Energy Transformation Fund; AlphaMundi through both its SocialAlpha and AlphaJiri Investment Funds; and the AfDB’s FEI OGEF managed by Lion’s Head.

This will enable SunCulture to scale up renewable energy installations at smallholder farms and households that will mitigate over 20,000 tons of CO2 annually – as farmers replace diesel pumps with solar ones – whilst facilitating income growth and job opportunities in rural communities.

SunCulture has pioneered a “Pay-As-You-Grow” business model to make solar-powered irrigation affordable for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, combining end-user finance, value-added services, modern climate technology, and access to improve productivity. A recent report developed by Dalberg Research shows that irrigation systems and solar-powered water pumps can increase farmers’ production between 2 and 4 times, and their income between 2 and 6 times.

Samir Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer at SunCulture, said, “The past year was devastating for the millions of smallholder farmers in Kenya; 87% are in a worse financial position due to the pandemic. 81% of SunCulture farmers, however, were able to increase their revenue from farming in 2020. Solar irrigation helps create food security and sovereignty, and it also helps lift people out of poverty. This facility further enables our efforts to support farmers by
providing them with more of our solar solutions, and faster.”

Jemimah Kwakye-Fosu, Investment Officer, who led the transaction for SunFunder, said: “We are delighted to have led this syndicate of proactive lenders who worked well together for a common goal: to help SunCulture reach many more farmers. It shows how working capital can be combined with end user financing, which is essential for making productive use technologies affordable.”

Surabhi Mathur Visser, Head of Investments at SunFunder, said: “This is a pioneering transaction that demonstrates how productive use technologies like solar irrigation can be scaled up. SunFunder arranged this facility with a similar-minded group of lenders to support an innovative product and business model. We look forward to seeing SunCulture grow in Kenya and new markets.”

Karin Isaksson, Managing Director at NDF, said: “This loan to SunCulture is the second e[tended to a company graduating from the EEP Trust Fund managed by NDF. It is a clear demonstration that we can deliver on the new NDF Strategy and its commitment to provide flexible and scalable financing as well as catalytic impact. It has all the ingredients that define NDF’s added value in the climate financing landscape. It demonstrates our capability to convene and mobilise additional financing, as well as our unique mix of financing instruments to match the needs of our partners, public or private. We are proud to be standing with our partners and supporting the emergence of a greener economy, precisely at this time of COVID-19.”

“Since our first investment in 2019, SunCulture has made huge strides to unlock the potential of smallholder agriculture through innovative products and consumer credit. FEI-OGEF is happy to be able to refinance our inventory loan into this new working capital facility and continue that growth alongside a committed and constructive group of lenders,´ noted Harry Guinness from Lion’s Head.

Judith Santbergen, Senior Investment Manager at AlphaMundi, said: “Since 2018, AlphaMundi has successively provided support to SunCulture through a combination of technical assistance and debt investment. We are e[cited to continue and increase our investment in the company via this new, innovative working capital facility.”

Sjoerd Melsert, Senior Investment Manager at Triodos Investment Management, said: “SunCulture is a great e[ample of an innovative company that is active on the nexus of renewable energy and agriculture, using solar energy to increase farmers’ incomes. Our facility supports the further growth of SunCulture’s pay-as-you-go solar portfolio, leading to a more sustainable and higher production for smallholder farmers, which is fully aligned with the
mission, ambition and activities of Hivos-Triodos Fund.”

SunCulture

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