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GroFin - Transforming SGBs in Africa & the Middle East

Posted By Shailen Neewoor, GroFin, Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2018

Gain a deeper understanding of how GroFin, through its unique investment model in SGBs, is positively transforming small and growing businesses and the local communities they support. The inspiring success stories of its entrepreneurs exemplify the collaborative efforts of GroFin staff, investors, partners and clients. The 2017 GroFin Impact Report, Nomou Impact Report and Aspire Impact Report translates its faith in the power of the collective by asking the question “If not us, who? If not today, when? If not with our finance and support, how will these small businesses grow and succeed?”

2017 GroFin Impact Report

As at end 2017, GroFin has financed 675 small and growing businesses, supported 8,840 entrepreneurs, sustained a total of 86,190 jobs and touched the lives of 430,955 family members in the local communities across our 15 locations of operation in Africa and the Middle East. The report indicates that GroFin has made more investments in its priority sectors of education, healthcare, agribusiness, manufacturing and key services. Furthermore, GroFin invested US$ 60M in nearly 88 new small and growing businesses, with over 50% of the SMEs operating directly in our sectors of focus, sustaining 14,000 total jobs and supporting an additional 72,000 livelihoods. And to reinforce its value proposition of providing 'support beyond finance' the company introduced the GroFin STEP (Success through Effective Partnerships) Programme to support its SMEs and Entrepreneurs.

2017 Nomou Impact Report

The Nomou Programme is a regional initiative in MENA which was co-created by GroFin and Shell Foundation. As a result of the collaborative efforts of its investors, partners and clients, the Nomou programme is contributing to the alleviation of poverty and improvement of livelihoods in the communities where the programme operates, as well as striving to reduce the adverse impact of the humanitarian crisis in the region.

In 2017, the Nomou Programme supported 1,005 entrepreneurs, made investments into 103 SGBs, sustained a total of 10,287 jobs, touched the lives of 51,435 beneficiaries and added economic value of US$ 149 million per annum through its investee SMEs across Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Oman.

2017 Aspire Impact Report

Since their inception in 2014, the Aspire Small Business Fund (ASBF) and the Aspire Growth Fund (AGF) have sought to promote local entrepreneurship, employment and economic value-add in the Niger Delta. With the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) as anchor investor, the Aspire Enterprise Development Funds epitomise GroFin, a private development finance institution, and SPDC’s efforts to serve the local community with a combination of investment funds, business skills and market linkages.

In 2017 GroFin increased its commitment to supporting SMEs in the Niger Delta Region by investing in an additional 17 small and growing businesses and extending further funding of US$ 2.5M (140% increase from total amount invested as at end 2016). As at end of 2017, GroFin has supported 365 businesses, invested in 53 SMEs and sustained a total of 1,975 jobs under the Aspire Funds.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  2017  A Access to Finance  Access to Finance  Africa  Agriculture  ANDE Africa  ANDE Members  Base of the Pyramid  Business  business training  capacity development  DGGF  East Africa  education  finance  impact  impact investing  impact investing; gender lens investing; gender; w  impact investment  impact measurement  innovation  Investors  Kenya  MENA  missing middle  Philanthropy; impact investing  Private sector development  Rwanda  SDGs  SGB  SGBs  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  SGBs; West Africa; Senegal; Africa; MENA; Entrepre  small and growing agrobusiness  smes  social impact  South Africa  sustainability  sustainable development  Tanzania  Training  Uganda  West Africa 

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GroFin partners with Mastercard Foundation on US$50M youth employment initiative in Rwanda

Posted By Nishika Bajaj, GroFin, Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Kigali: May 1, 2018 – Private development finance institution GroFin has partnered with Mastercard Foundation to extend business development support and catalyse investment to small and growing businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector of Rwanda.

GroFin is joining the Mastercard Foundation’s Hanga Ahazaza initiative, a US $50 million, five-year initiative focused on relieving poverty by increasing employment opportunities for young people while expanding the tourism and hospitality sector in Rwanda.

Hanga Ahazaza, meaning ‘create the future’ in Kinyarwanda, will equip 30,000 young men and women with the skills they need to transition to employment and increase access to financial services and business development skills for small businesses in this thriving sector. The initiative aligns with GroFin’s focus on increasing employment opportunities for youth and women.

“Working together, we will support small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector and ensure the sector can find qualified young people with the skills needed to be successful employees or entrepreneurs,” says Guido Boysen, CEO of GroFin.

Over the next three years, the GroFin-managed Small and Growing Businesses Fund will invest in 12 small enterprises operating in the tourism and hospitality sector of Rwanda. GroFin will screen and identify 120 small and growing businesses in this sector to provide pre-finance business development assistance. Of these, 12 are expected to go on to qualify for GroFin’s investment and post-finance business support.

These businesses will be chosen based on their potential to impact economically disadvantaged individuals, with focus on small enterprises that employ a substantial proportion of youth and women, as well as those that are owned by women.

Using this approach, GroFin’s activities will sustain a total of 1,200 jobs and support 4,500 livelihoods for economically disadvantaged individuals. Two-thirds of these jobs will be created and sustained for youth and women.

“We look forward to collaborating with GroFin as part of the Hanga Ahazaza initiative” said Rica Rwigamba, Program Manager at the Mastercard Foundation. “Their unique approach to providing a combination of appropriate finance, tailored business support and market linkages will help small businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector reach their full potential and generate more employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people.”

Hanga Ahazaza is led by a consortium of partners from the education, development, and private sectors. Working together, they will support small businesses and entrepreneurs in the tourism and hospitality sector through increased access to financial services and training, and by connecting them to young people with the skills needed to be successful employees.

About GroFin

GroFin is a pioneering private development finance institution specialising in the finance and support of small and medium enterprises.

Since its inception in 2004, GroFin has established a wide network of local offices in 15 countries across Africa and the Middle East covering Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Mauritius, Egypt, Oman, Jordan and Iraq.

As at close of 2017, GroFin had undertaken 675 SME investments and sustained 86,191 jobs across healthcare, education, agribusiness, manufacturing, water, energy and waste services, food and accommodation, construction, wholesale and retail, and professional services.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors. The Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.

Tags:  Access to finance  impact investing  SMEs 

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Introducing FINANCE CONNECT: Connecting SMEs with the best financing opportunity

Posted By FAST International, Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade, Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Finance Connect is a unique service that focuses on addressing the needs of larger sustainable agricultural and forestry SMEs in developing countries that have financing needs of more than USD 800,000. These are usually enterprises that have larger projects, or projects that require both short and long-term finance. It is a tailor-made service that supports the enterprises throughout the process of obtaining finance, including linking SMEs to financial services providers (FSPs) that can meet their needs in an accurate, efficient, and effective manner. Ultimately, this service will enable FAST and its partners to create a tangible benefit on the ground by helping SMEs restructure their finances, reach their potential growth, employ more people, and have a more sustainable business model that will benefit them and their communities in the long term.

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  Access to Finance  financial inclusion  larger SMEs 

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Research Meets Africa: the Call for Papers is open!

Posted By María Belén Zambrano, Appui au Développement Autonome, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Call for Papers: Research Meets Africa

9th October 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Research Meets Africa aims to promote research and innovation on inclusive finance in Africa. It encourages collaboration between researchers and practitioners of the sector by involving universities from Africa and around the world. The event will be held on the 9th of October 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia alongside African Microfinance Week.

 Researchers are invited to submit their research papers on this topic:

                        "What solutions respond to the growth needs of MSMEs in Africa?" 

For any question, please contact the Conference Team:rmateam@ada-microfinance.lu

Or visit our website: http://www.ada-microfinance.org/en/events/african-microfinance-week/research-meets-africa

 The submission deadline is 30th May 2017!

 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  access to finance  Africa  capacity development  conference  Microfinance  Research  SMEs 

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Missing Middle Investors Network – Easy, Efficient Way for Fund Investors to Share Deals in Emerging Markets

Posted By Michael Newman, Capria Ventures, Monday, April 10, 2017

We kept hearing the same desire from investors worldwide: they’re looking for great new impact funds in emerging markets, really want more deal flow, and find out more about what funds their respected peers see as compelling.

Building on discussions at the Collaborative Capital for the Missing Middle gathering of DFIs, foundations and family offices from every corner of the world, a working group formed the Missing Middle Investors Network (MMIN) because of their strong interest in a simple, efficient way to share impact funds investment opportunities, which may lead to shared insights, potential collaboration and co-investment.  

Keeping it simple

MMIN is really quite straightforward.  Every two months, we hold a group video call to share investment opportunities in funds that network members feel are compelling. The presenting members spend about 5 minutes sharing what they find most compelling about the investment opportunity, as well as key questions they intend to pursue in evaluating the deal.  Other participating members on the call then share their initial thoughts and raise what they see as key questions about the deal. If a member is interested in discussing the deal in more detail and/or getting an introduction to the investee, they can reach out to the sponsoring member after the call.

Strong initial traction

Launched in January 2017, MMIN already has over 40 members, including Capria, Ceniarth, CDC, Chan Zuckerberg, Christian Super, DFAT, Grieg Investor Group, I&P, IFC, Kellogg Foundation, Lemelson Foundation, Merrill Lynch, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Pfizer Foundation, PG Impact, Rianta Capital, Rockefeller Brothers, Sall Family Foundation, Small Foundation, Sonanz, Sorenson Impact Foundation, Soros Economic Development Fund, SwedFund and more.

On March 23, we hosted the second MMIN call. Five different members presented impact fund investment opportunities:

  • SwedFund presented Aletheia Identity, a women-led fund and Capria Network member that invests in early growth stage SMEs with diverse and women-led teams in Africa.
  • Ceniarth presented Advanced Global Capital, a specialty finance fund that supports SMEs in a variety of emerging and underserved markets through invoice discounting.
  • Sonanz presented Grey Ghost Ventures, a fund investing in early-stage enterprises that focus on mobile-based technologies for underserved communities in Asia and Africa.
  • Capria presented Brightmore Capital, a fund investing in early-stage, West African SMEs across multiple sectors.
  • Small Foundation presented IPDEV2, a fund of funds investing in SME-focused impact investment vehicles in sub-Saharan Africa.

You’re an investor who wants to get involved?

While we expect to see the network grow, we’re excited about MMIN remaining an invite-only and trusted peer network, where like-minded LPs can share investment opportunities and ideas.

If you are an investor or TA provider to impact funds in emerging markets and interested in MMIN, please feel free to contact me at michaeln@capria.vc

Tags:  Access to Finance  impact investing  Investors  Michael and Susan Dell Foundation  Soros Economic Development Fund  Upaya Social Ventures 

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Asset Finance: An Opportunity for Small & Growing Agribusinesses

Posted By Paula Rodriguez, InspiraFarms, Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Asset Finance: An Opportunity for Small & Growing Agribusinesses 

Asset financing has emerged as a promising new model for agricultural finance attracting a growing number of investors to the sector. However, small agribusinesses in developing countries still face significant challenges accessing investment capital, including unrealistically high collateral requirements and unaffordable interest rates. With traditional financial institutions providing less than a sixth of the $200 billion required to fund smallholder agribusiness globally, how can small agribusinesses ensure they are best positioned to attract investment and financing? Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance outlines the factors critical for success. To access the full report developed by !nspiraFarms - http://www.inspirafarms.com/articles-publications/

Tags:  Access to Finance  finance  smaholder farmers  small and growing agrobusiness 

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Presenting the report Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance

Posted By Paula Rodriguez, InspiraFarms, Monday, October 17, 2016

A new report by Epven, with support from the Shell Foundation and the Small Foundation, explores the challenges and emerging solutions to scaling asset finance options for small and growing agribusinesses (SGBs) in developing countries.

 The investment opportunity in agribusiness assets in emerging economies runs into the billions of dollars. The social and environmental benefits that can be gained by reducing food losses, increasing employment and enterprise sustainability, as well as empowering women and rural communities, are equally significant.

 Despite this opportunity, most small-scale agribusinesses in developing countries lack access to reasonable financing options for acquiring such assets, falling into the “missing middle” and facing a combination of unrealistically high collateral requirements and unaffordable interest rates. It s estimated that formal financial institutions meet less than a sixth of the $200 billion in demand for financing from smallholder agribusiness globally.

 Asset financing is one form of finance that is quickly emerging as a promising new model with a growing number of providers diversifying into the sector. The report Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance examines the potential of asset finance to reverse this financing gap. Reflecting the first-hand experiences, innovations and perspectives of over 70 asset finance experts in Kenya, Guatemala, and India—the “coal-face” of the industry—the report highlights four critical success factors that drive scale in asset finance:  

1.     The asset must be liquid to act as its own collateral. There must be a market for the asset, and resale value must be measureable.

2.     SGBs must demonstrate their capability to effectively utilize the asset. The use of cash flows is recommended for the calculation of financial viability and creditworthiness.

3.     SGBs must have a stable and secure market for the expected outputs of the asset. Having secure contracts from buyers in the agricultural sector is a positive incentive for financial institutions and for securing a stable stream of revenues for SGB’s.

4.     Network organizations like ANDE, the GIIN and the Sustainable Food Lab support more and better ecosystem collaboration between technology companies, financial service providers and producers and buyers along the agricultural value chain.

The report summarizes key roles for the main actors of the asset finance ecosystem, followed by detailed recommendations for capacity developers, 2nd tier investors, donors, DFIs and foundations, technology companies, and the financial service providers at the coal face.

 

To read and download this report by Epven, with support from the Shell Foundation and the Small Foundation, please visit http://www.inspirafarms.com/articles-publications/

TITLE: Moving the Needle: Critical Success Factors for Scaling Asset Finance

Authors: Tim Chambers and Jack Luft

Contact Person: Tim Chambers (tchambers@epven.com)

 

 

 

Tags:  Access to Finance  Agriculture  ANDE Members  asset finance  farming  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive business  innovation  Investors  microfinance  post-harvest  small and growing agrobusiness  value addition 

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TA Finance for SGBs - a scarce good down the road?

Posted By Pedro Eikelenboom, PUM Netherlands senior experts, Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Some perspective...once upon a time...

Picture yourself at a roundtable session with the topic ‘financial   instruments to support private sector development – how can business and non-profit collaborate’.  Guest speakers include a representative from a development bank, a public enterprise development agency, a non-profit and an enterprise

It reads like one of the many 'powwows' on the topic, though the invitation to this event has long but expired - it took place in October 2005 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands….


The impact investment eco-system

Fast-tracking time to 2016, there’s a new world created around impact investing. It has grown into an enormous market place for innovative financial (and non-financial) products and instruments. Where investors and prospects meet up, advised by consultants, think tanks, investment networks and so forth.

Many type of impact investors have entered the market, from banks, pension funds, wealth managers, family foundations, governments, development finance institutions and NGO’s. Hereby gradually expanding their investment portfolio into high-risk sectors like agriculture, in challenging countries, and targeting enterprises with ticket-sizes between US$ 100k – 500k.

It’s a shift (change in strategy) by some investors, with many key players shifting their ‘grant funds’ to a ‘return on investment’ portfolio. Is the eco-system creating a scarce good out of grants (in most cases being technical assistance / knowledge sharing) directed to support capacity development within enterprises? 

The true price of grants

Impact investing cannot only be about moving investment capital to riskier endeavors. It’s a combination of capital investments and non-reimbursable investments (the so-called grants). And the latter being a crucial factor in supporting the public good impact through technical assistance or capacity building trajectories for the beneficiaries. Neither is it a combination of 90-10, where grants serve as a bit of technical assistance on the side.

Reaching the enterprises that have growth potential but limited access to finance, means taking risk (call it technical assistance, capacity-building, non-reimbursable grants, first loss, equity stake, if you like) through a structured deal proposal between the impact investor, (perhaps) a development bank, an NGO, a technical service provider and so forth.

Several studies have stated that there is sufficient capital in the world to invest in small and medium sized enterprises (the ‘missing-middle’), in volatile sectors and in frontier markets. So money is not the issue – though the non-reimbursable investments are unfortunately becoming a scarce good due to policy changes within the public and non-profit sector.

However, beyond the non-profit community, grants are often perceived as ‘little strings-attached subsidies’, which require no financial returns. Of course, non-financial impact (social, environment etc.) is sought, though it’s based on expectations (outputs, outcomes). If one fails to reach the objectives, basically there’s not much harm done, it is - in the end - a grant.

How can we change this mindset? Grants do have a ‘price-tag’, value or leverage when dealing with blended finance. I’m sure, many investment deals in frontier markets would and will not happen without some flow of subsidies structured in the deal. Surely not advocating that grants should have a ROI too – next to non-monetary impact (social, environmental) -, but we should not take for granted the indirect value or direct leverage a subsidy has in the impact investment space. What can grant providers request or negotiate more in return for their contribution? Elements such as securing a seat at the board table of an investee (steer company’s public good objectives), or commit private grant funding to the related capacity-building program of an investment.  

Transferring skills & knowledge to secure ROI

Potential investment prospects (enterprises) may have fragile balance sheets, weak governance or inefficient processes. For that reason they are often initially overlooked by investors. As the impact investment marketplace is moving towards the ‘high-hanging fruit enterprises’, the power of knowledge becomes even more visible. Short-term technical assistance (related to entrepreneurship development) can strengthen an enterprise, making it robust and subsequently ‘de-risk’ its profile to potential investors.

In the case for professional volunteer service organizations (i.e. PUM, IESC, ACDI/VOCA, SES etc.) – its transfer of knowledge is as crucial as the committed capital investment to enterprises. Next to that, these organizations have a wealth of data, network and track-record in advising enterprises around the globe.

In the access to finance space for entrepreneurs, professional volunteer service organizations can play a critical role in strengthening the business competences of enterprises.

The lack of available (and/or affordable) local network of skills and experiences, that can contribute to the range of challenges an entrepreneur faces, is the gap where professional volunteer service organizations can offer qualified, experienced volunteer professionals to donate their time in transferring knowledge with entrepreneurs around the world. 

A structured approach

A structured approach on enabling enterprises in frontier markets to grow is essential and contributes into embracing entrepreneurs beyond the ‘usual suspects’. Collaboration through acknowledging and applying each other’s strengths is the way forward in achieving a sustainable return and impact through investment. And not to forget the role of governments and multilateral institutions in continuing - or at least not further reducing - ODA funded enterprise development programs. Of course, few would disagree with this conclusion, though the eco-system unfortunately exhibits far too few cases to proof otherwise.

For more insights on the role and added value of professional volunteer service organizations like PUM can have in strengthening SBG's as to de-risking their profile to impact investors, download the enclosed (full) article. 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  accelerators  Access to Finance  Business  capacity development  Capital Aggregation  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  entrepreneurship ecosystems  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive business  Investors  partnership  Pioneering Capital  Private sector development  social business  social entrepreneurship  social impact 

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Announcing a New Impact Investing “Hard Skills” 2-Day Clinic: Financial Analysis and Modeling for Social Businesses, Projects and Impact Investing Funds

Posted By Erina McWilliam-Lopez, Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of Internationa, Friday, April 8, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016
What hard skills are required for a career in the impact investing? For starters, you are going to need to know the difference between debt and equity. You must be able to understand financial statements and how to create a financial model, analyses, and forecasting.

What is a social enterprise? What does “impact” really mean? The “impact space” spans across all industries. It is an exciting new approach that uses finance and business as a tool to address pressing environmental and social needs. Many purpose-driven people have worked “close to the impact” through the Peace Corps, or with a local nonprofit. However, the essential frameworks for social business design can be challenging to distinguish for those who have little or no background in basic finance.

We’ve designed a 2-day intensive clinic focused on the essential frameworks for financial analysis and modeling for social impact. The clinic is a comprehensive introduction that will break down key concepts. It has been designed as a primer to the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) certificate training in social enterprise management and impact investing.

The clinic takes place the weekend prior to the upcoming FMS Monterey certificate training—June 4 & 5, 2016. It is ideal for incoming FMS participants as well as past alums who lack a solid background in finance. This course is also an excellent opportunity for professionals interested in gaining a foundational starting point for understanding how impact investing and social enterprise works. Check out the schedule for a break down of each day.

Workshop Fee: $450 (special pricing available for FMS participants)

To apply, submit your information here – https://fms1.typeform.com/to/x0JSWn

Course Instructor

Kim Kastorff founded both Kimpacto, Inc. and Global Success Fund, after many years in banking, investments, social responsibility & education, and understanding that social entrepreneurs & global businesses need affordable financial services, funding and greater collaboration, plus the increasing importance to demonstrate social impact. Today, there is an increasing trend for ‘Maximizing financial + social impact.’  Kimpacto further supports impact investors in connecting their personal mission with impact funds and social investment opportunities.

Kim’s goal is to promote financial inclusion and push for a more educated and financially sustainable global environment.  As a Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corporation, Kimpacto, Inc. is held to our global mission and a higher level of social, environmental, community and governance standards.
Kim is fluent in English & Spanish and brings her global finance, investment banking and Big 4 Consulting experience (U.S., Europe & Latin America) and holds an MBA in Finance, and a Masters in Research – Impact Investing and FINRA Securities Licenses (7, 63, 65).

THE CENTER FOR SOCIAL IMPACT LEARNING (CSIL) was founded at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in July 2014 to proactively advance millennial engagement in the emerging fields of Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing through three interrelated lenses: Academic, Experiential, and Action Research.

CSIL stands out among today’s impact-driven career programs because it’s designed to serve the full spectrum of emerging social entrepreneurs—from undergraduates to graduate students to accomplished professionals, offering them both valuable learning experiences in the social enterprise field and seamless transitions from one stage of professional development to the next. With a focus on social enterprise management and impact investing, CSIL offers world-class experiential learning opportunities including a unique career launchpad program named the Ambassador Corps, and the award-winning Frontier Market Scouts fellowship and training program.  CSIL acts as a vehicle for positive impact in communities around the world by partnering with small and growing social sector businesses and responsible investment funds seeking new talent, and then matching them with globally-minded and diversely-skilled professionals.  Visit go.miis.edu/csil

Programs

TheFrontier Market Scouts Fellowship Program
An award winning two-week certificate training program and corresponding social sector fellowship opportunity for young professionals and graduate students who seek a career in social enterprise management and impact investing. Visit: go.miis.edu/fms

Research Lab
An action oriented research unit focusing on case study analyses in emerging markets and seed state social venture management, with an emphasis in utilizing impact metrics and enterprise risk. The Research Lab launched January 2015, under the direction of Dr. Yuwei Shi.

Ambassador Corps
The Ambassador Corps program connects students to the front line of social impact with unique global internship opportunities.A select group of thetop undergraduate university students from across the US are chosen to do an 8 to 10 week international summer internships. Visit: go.miis.edu/ambcorps

 


 Attached Files:
Clinic Flyer.pdf (214.94 KB)

Tags:  Access to finance  bootcamp  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  impact investing  impact valuation  jobs  mentoring  metrics and research  professional development  social enterprise  Social entrepreneurship  social impact  training 

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Running Without Shoes: Plight of the Smallholder Farmer

Posted By Simone Fugar, Esoko, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A blog by Hillary Miller-Wise, CEO of Esoko 

Imagine you had to run a 10 km race without running shoes. Certainly you would make do with what you had, but you probably would end up blistered and near the back of the pack. In a simplistic way, this is what smallholder farmers in Africa experience every day. But in their case, their lives depend on it.

Most smallholder farmers in Africa are farming without the tools and knowledge they need. They don’t have access to inputs like quality seed and fertilizer that would allow them to produce more. Some countries have tried to solve this problem by subsidizing inputs with the intention of making them more affordable. In the end, though, the result is like giving the runner one shoe to run the race.

Subsidies are fraught with problems. Often the administration is so poor that the inputs don’t arrive in time for the season. Those who benefit most tend to be less-poor, more highly educated, well-connected and men. Subsidies tend to “crowd out” private sector supply, and they often drive farmers to over-produce the subsidized crop, such as maize, which can lead to negative changes in diet and nutrition as production of other crops like legumes is reduced.

Even when smallholder farmers are able to procure subsidized inputs, the product is often still too expensive for them. In Ghana, for example, a bag of fertilizer on the open market costs Ghs 120, or about $30. The government subsidy reduces the price to Ghs 90, or about $23. While the lower price certainly helps, it is still out of reach for many smallholder farmers, who have little cash at the time that they need to purchase the inputs. This is the main problem: it’s often not a question of overall income for farmers, but rather of cash flow. Farmers may well be able to afford inputs right after harvest, but they are often out of cash just prior to the planting season. And most of these farmers can’t borrow money to bridge the gap because, as we know, most banks won’t lend to them. One of the few options left is to borrow informally at very high interest rates, which eats into their profits at harvest time.

In order to break this cycle, farmers need to accumulate financial assets from production surpluses. In other words, they need to put some of the money they earn during harvest time into savings in order to purchase quality inputs for the next season.

Savings practices are already very widespread among more commercially-oriented smallholder farmers, as documented by CGAP in its recently published Smallholder Diaries report. Many smallholders keep their savings in-kind or under the mattress, presenting a clear opportunity to offer them more avenues to store money.

For less commercially-oriented smallholders, improved agronomic practices and better agricultural risk management would also be important, according to CGAP. Off-takers interested in reaching smallholders, for example, would need to bundle agronomic support and financial tools, the report says.

While subsidized inputs have proven to increase production for smallholder farmers who are able to access them, they tend to treat the symptom rather than the underlying disease, which is, at least in part, a combination of the high cost of inputs, farmers’ inability to store money safely when they can, and poor knowledge of improved agricultural practices to increase the return on investment when they are able to procure the inputs.

To tackle these problems in a sustainable way, we need to improve the way that input and financial markets function for poor smallholders. One way to do this is by creating incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farm. These incentives should include access to discounted inputs based on market principles such as bulk purchases, access to vital market and agronomic information, guaranteed yield increases and protection against crop failure, and access to markets.

An input subsidy is like giving a runner one running shoe. Creating market incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farms is like giving the runner the complete pair and the motivation to cross the finish line.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  access to finance  Africa  agriculture  fintech  ICT4D  inputs  smallholder farmers  social entrepreneurship 

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