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Grow Africa Investment Forum calls for business-government partnerships

Photo: GIZ 2016

Kigali | Rwanda | 18 May 2016
On 10 and 11 May, Rwanda hosted the annual Grow Africa Investment Forum in Kigali. The event brought together over 250 representatives from business and development organisations who share a commitment to driving inclusive and responsible investments into African agriculture. Agricultural specialist Jim Woodhill attended the event on behalf of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development as part of the Platform’s work on establishing a work stream on inclusive agribusiness. In the opening of the high level panel, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, noted that 20 years ago it would have been impossible to talk about the concept of Grow Africa. But now it is because of how important agriculture is to structural transformation in Africa, because agriculture is now seen as a business, and the state no longer sees itself as being monopolistic in the development of policy.

During the forum, sessions were held on regional value chains (cassava, potato, rice and seeds), new business models and innovation, and country level investment opportunities. Key issues raised by business and government leaders during the forum included improving the enabling policy environment through better business-government dialogue, reducing food imports improving the productivity of agriculture and reducing waste and improving infrastructure. Masterclasses were held on addressing land access, human rights and business risks, and country partnerships. The later presented the WEF New Vision for Agriculture publication prepared in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting, on “Building Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security - A Guide to Country-Led Action".

The forum concluded with input from African leaders, including a representative of the President of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the President of Kenya, the Vice-President of Tanzania and the President of the African Development Bank. They all spoke of the critical role that agriculture has to play in Africa’s future economic development and the need for partnerships between business and governments that deliver economic opportunity for Africa’s small-scale farmers and rural communities.

A key focus on small-scale farmers

Backed by the convening power of the World Economic Forum, Grow Africa is pioneering a new model of cooperation between business, governments and development organisations to expand much needed investment in the agriculture sector (a full update on Grow Africa can be found here). A key focus is on how small-scale farmers can be included in value chains in ways that help overcome poverty and food insecurity, while also achieving a more commercial and business oriented approach to agricultural development. The Grow Africa Partnership was founded jointly by the African Union (AU), The New Partnership for Africa\'s Development (NEPAD) and the World Economic Forum in 2011. It is an African-owned and country-led, platform for cross-sector collaboration on inclusive market-based agricultural development. Over 200 companies and governments in 12 countries are now part of the Grow Africa Partnership which is supported by the Secretariat and a network of knowledge partners and topic specialists.

Initially the Secretariat was hosted by the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2015 it transitioned to being hosted by the NEPAD Agency in Johannesburg and in May 2016 William Asiko was appointed as the new Executive Director. He joins Grow Africa from the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF). The work of the Secretariat is being supported by USAID, UKaid and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC). Grow Africa generates investment to help achieve the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. It measures its success through investment expenditure, jobs created and increased incomes for small-holder farmers. Though it promotes the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, agreed to by the Committee on World Food Security in 2014, Grow Africa notes that there many challenges to operationalise the principles in practice.
The goals of Grow Africa align closely with those of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which is a shared commitment by African governments, development partners and private sector companies to achieve sustained, inclusive agriculture-led growth to lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022. The New Alliance comprises country-specific commitments codified in Cooperation Frameworks, as well as Enabling Actions that address broad constraints to inclusive, agriculture-led growth and support country-level actions. In partnership with African governments, Grow Africa facilitated the development of private sector Letters of Intent in numerous New Alliance countries and tracks progress in implementing the investments outlined in the signed Letters of Intent and summarized in the Cooperation Frameworks.

Grow Africa’s smallholder working group has been very active over the last year. It has been co-chaired and supported by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). During the Forum, best practice business models were presented drawing on themes around which the working group has developed briefing papers – women smallholders; aggregation models; public private partnerships; information and communication technology. To date Grow Africa reports that of the USD10 billion in pledged investments, USD2.5 billion have been realised, reaching 10 million small-scale farmers and creating 88,000 jobs. However, there was considerable discussion during the forum about the need for better data and evidence on the how the efforts of Grow Africa are impacting on inclusive growth and poverty reduction. There is also recognition that more effort is needed to link private sector investment, policy change and public sector investment in ways that can drive an inclusive transformation of African agriculture at scale.

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