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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.”

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Agriculture

CAP-F Partners Pledge Support for Private Sector Agribusiness Investments in Nigeria

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CAP-F Partners and NABG Officials (Image: Supplied)

The food situation in Africa is quite dire but full of potential. According to the United Nations Conferences on Trade and Development (UNCTD), between 2016 and 2018, the continent imported about 85% of its food from outside the continent. This cost the continent about $35 billion. What’s worse? This cost is expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025. The impact of this is two-fold; African economies are unable to guarantee food security for the continent and are unable to take advantage of the global food market, which is expected to reach $11 trillion by 2030.

To achieve Africa’s agricultural potential, The Grow Africa Partnership was jointly founded in 2011 by the African Union,  African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) and the World Economic Forum. Grow Africa’s mission is to increase private sector investment in Agriculture. Grow Africa’s flagship programme is the Country Agribusiness Partnership Framework (CAP-F), a mechanism for establishing effective public private engagement to create agribusiness partnerships in a country. CAP-F facilitates the alignment of private sector investments commitments with public sector policy/infrastructure obligations and provides a mechanism for all parties to hold each other accountable for their obligations. CAP-F’s footprint currently spans 16 African countries.

During a recent CAP-F private sector stakeholder sensitization engagement, CAP-F’s partners, including AUDA-NEPAD, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), pledged to work with multi-stakeholder agriculture value chain platforms to promote private sector investments that can improve agriculture productivity in Nigeria.

In his welcome address, Emmanuel Ijewere, Vice President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) expounded on the context of a private-sector led agribusiness investment ecosystem in Nigeria. “Agriculture has the credentials to be Nigeria’s most attractive investment option. It is very important that stakeholders across the public and private sectors work together to align their interests and expectations. This is the value that CAP-F brings to the table,” Ijewere noted.

Also speaking at the engagement, Ibrahim Gourouza, Chief Operating Officer of Grow Africa noted that the optimised participation of private sector investors will help build more sophisticated agriculture value chains across Africa. This tasked Grow Africa with the responsibility of creating a private-sector inclusive agriculture investment ecosystem through CAP-F. On the design principles around CAP-F, he noted, “One of CAP-F’s key success factors is that it is owned by countries and anchored on existing structures. With this in mind, in collaboration with stakeholders, we selected NABG as the anchor of CAP-F coordination in Nigeria.”

He noted that Grow Africa is committed to CAP-F in Nigeria in a number of ways. “Grow Africa has provided the CAP-F Secretariat in Nigeria with a business model that has generated close to $500m in private sector investments in Africa across 6 countries and in 5 value chains. This will be an invaluable tool for business deal generation in Nigeria. We will continue to provide technical assistance for the team in Nigeria. While we have attracted funding from AGRA for the CAP-F Secretariat in Nigeria, we will work to expand the partnership support to ensure a more sustainable CAP-F implementation in Nigeria. Finally, we will provide a database of financiers who we will connect to provide sector deals in agriculture in Nigeria,” Gourouza noted.

The CAP-F business model focuses on collaborating with multi-stakeholder platforms across agriculture value chains in the country (existing and new platforms) and the development of business cases to identify investment opportunities in these value chains as well as inhibitors to these investment opportunities. The business model then creates matchmaking opportunities between various stakeholders, which culminates in a term sheet that aligns the commitments and expectations of all stakeholders from those investment opportunities. These term sheets are then taken from commitments on paper to actual investments that are concluded. The final stage of the business model is a mutual accountability and knowledge sharing activity, where updates on private sector investments are presented to the African Union.

CAP-F’s activities in Nigeria are funded by AGRA. In its address, the funders, represented by David Adama, Senior Programme Officer, noted that the engagement with private sector stakeholders is extremely important in driving agricultural transformation in the country. He stated, “CAP-F provides an opportunity for government and the private sector to engage on some of the opportunities that have been identified through the National Agriculture Investment Programme (NAIP) in order to know where private sector investments are necessary. This is particularly important, given the current challenges around public sector investments. AGRA is happy to work closely with Grow Africa and NABG in Nigeria to facilitate this.”

CAP-F Partners is also critical if Nigeria is able to move its millions of smallholder farmers into agripreneurs, who can actually create wealth through agriculture.

 

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Agriculture

Climate change report shines spotlight on Africa’s agriculture potential

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It seems almost incongruous to talk about the opportunity that exists in ensuring the world’s food security by bolstering Africa’s agricultural output when the very pressing and public crisis of climate change could be its undoing.

Particularly in the run up to COP26 and the “reality check” that came with this week’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Six Assessment Report, it is clear the entire African continent is “highly exposed” to climate extremes, at a relatively “high level of vulnerability”.

With over two thirds of Africans deriving their livelihood off agriculture, climate change-led crises like droughts, floods and cyclones continue to threaten the continent’s economic growth, employment, and food security. And yet, ensuring Africa’s agricultural resilience would not just help Africa. It’s essential for ensuring global food security. 

What’s more, these climate-led natural disasters have the greatest and most disproportionate impact on small- to medium-scale farmers, comprising as much as 80% of Africa’s agricultural output, from maize and wheat to rice, cassava, and sorghum. 

“The UN Report confirmed that climate change is intensifying the water cycle and affecting rainfall patterns, bringing more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions,” says Malvern Chirume, African Risk Capacity Limited Chief Underwriting Officer.

“These African farmers are the heart of the continent’s agriculture and are at the mercy of climate change events completely out of their control,” Chirume adds.

Established in 2014, ARC Limited provides natural disaster insurance relief to African countries which have joined the sovereign risk pool.

Along with its partners, which provide premium support, the insurer has already paid over US$65m to seven African countries to provide drought relief and address the economic concerns these countries’ most vulnerable citizens face.

Responding to the climate crisis

Traditionally, countries have responded to climate change-led disasters such as droughts or floods by raising funds for emergency relief. This approach is time-consuming and inefficient.

“It takes far too long for African countries to mobilise the immediate resources they need for relief efforts, to save lives and livelihoods. Our role at ARC Limited is to work with countries to prepare them for the risk exposure they have and how to respond swiftly to climate-related food security emergencies. This includes helping them to establish a rainy-day fund which pays out swiftly, before the problem has become worse, and more funding is needed.”

The ARC Limited model, built on parametric insurance (pre-specified pay-outs based upon a trigger event), has been highly successful, says Chirume.

“We have to date paid out close to $65 million dollars in claims. When one considers that every dollar in insurance pay-outs saves US$4 dollars, this makes the cumulative economic impact around US$240 million. With those funds, we’ve helped more than 5.9 million people whose livelihoods have been affected by climate change impacts,” Chirume explains.

While parametric insurance against natural disasters has enormous potential for the agricultural sector, it has a further economic impact. Because agriculture makes up such a significant portion of the continent’s economy, a downturn caused by a climate shock will echo through the broader economy of any nation affected.

This can bring an economic downturn, a lack of funding for key infrastructure and services at government level, and a loss of jobs as farmers struggle to recover. There is also evidence of migration away from areas experiencing drought, which can have a long-term impact on the regional economy.

Organisations such as ARC Limited have an essential role to play in this way in protecting agricultural value chains and the economies of and employment in Africa. “Our role is to help mitigate and manage the risk, building resilience and ensuring the African country is able to bounce back sooner after a natural disaster,” says Chirume.

With the negative impacts of climate change increasing and their potential to devastate the agricultural sectors and food security of African countries, it has become more important than ever to put sustainability at the heart of interventions.

“Creating an environment that limits the impact of climate shocks on the agricultural sector is about more than just securing economic transformation. At the heart of this investment is the need to ensure basic food security for the continent and the world,” says Chirume.

In its Sustainable Development Series, the World Bank says the African continent could play a leading role in ensuring food security for the earth’s estimated 9 billion people by 2050.

According to McKinsey, Africa’s full agricultural potential remains untapped. It determines that Africa could produce two to three times more cereals and grains, which would add 20% more cereals and grains to the world’s current output of 2.6 billion tons.

Given Africa’s productive potential, the continent could be a key contributor to feeding the world in the future. But to fully realise that potential will require overcoming many obstacles, including how it deals with the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security.

“We need broader collaboration between private and public sector to solve the climate change disaster response problem our continent faces. The problem is so big, that all of us have a role to play,” says Lesley Ndlovu, ARC Limited CEO.

With the support of the United Kingdom and German Government, ARC Limited has been equipped to help the member states of the African Union reduce the risk of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events affecting African populations.

“But there’s so much more work that still needs to go into reaching as many people as possible to help build the resilience of local communities and ensure they have the means to bounce back whenever they are impacted by a natural disaster,” concludes Ndlovu. 

 

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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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