|The African Development Bank’s incoming Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Beth Dunford, and Director for Agricultural Finance and Rural Infrastructure Development Atsuko Toda joined development leaders online to launch this year’s African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Agribusiness Deal Room. The AGRF’s agriculture matchmaking platform initiative links some 4,000 actors in the agriculture sector to investment and networking opportunities.
In her first public engagement since her appointment, Dr. Dunford gave keynote remarks at a virtual session that drew more than 200 participants on Tuesday, 29 June. Dr. Dunford said that across Africa, there is a growing class of “agripreneurs” who are looking for investment, partnerships, technical know-how, and financing to scale up their business.
“The African Development Bank is excited to grow its partnership to this initiative. The Agribusiness Deal Room compliments our efforts to expand finance for agribusiness to enable small and medium enterprises to grow and attract new and innovative sources of sustainable capital,” she told the online audience.
Organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, this fourth edition of the Agribusiness Deal Room will be featured at the annual AGRF Summit that convenes stakeholders to facilitate partnerships and investments in African agriculture. The Agribusiness Deal Room specifically supports governments and companies with access to finance and partnership opportunities.
Dr. Dunford told session attendees that the platform aligns with the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy which seeks to ensure that the growth of the agricultural sector includes food security, and encourages inclusive growth by involving more women and youth. She also said Bank support of the Agribusiness Deal Room signals a commitment to a collective vision to accelerate Africa’s food system transformation.
“In my new capacity with the Bank, I’m looking forward to working with the AGRF and so many partners with us online, to see these food systems become more sustainable and more resilient,” Dr. Dunford added.
This year, the AGRF Agribusiness Deal Room will focus on addressing the challenges in agricultural lending to small and medium enterprises, or SMEs.
“The huge potential of the agricultural sector on the continent remains unmet, with agriculture potentially the engine of African economies. We designed the Deal Room to build the capacities of SMEs while at the same time connecting them with sources of financing. We are looking for investments and partnerships that will unlock the sector’s potential,” said Dr. Fadel Ndiame, Deputy President, AGRA.
The Bank is one of 24 Agribusiness Deal Room partners that bring complementary capabilities, resources, and networks to the platform.
Toda served on one of two discussion panels at Tuesday’s launch, the first focused “Investments for resilience, public and private sector strategies,” the latter, themed “Building SME capacity to mitigate risks for a sustainable African food system.”
Speaking to the theme of building SME capacity, Toda said that these often under-the-radar businesses play a key role in delivering food to African tables and in generating employment.
“SMEs are the engine of growth for food supply chains. If you look at any food supply chain, between 65 – 90% of the food supply is actually through small and medium enterprises,” Toda said.
“For people to have jobs in Africa – it is very difficult to get into the formal sector. So the informal sector – the small, medium enterprises – are so important for creating jobs on the African continent,” she added.
Dr. Dunford will be responsible for the Bank’s strategy, lending and other activities in agriculture, as well as in water and sanitation, education, health, and Bank-wide work on employment and gender equity.