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The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity recently participated at the Africa Agri Investment Indaba 2022 held on 14 – 16 November in Cape Town, South Africa. The event is seen as a global meeting place for agri-food investment in Africa, as it brings together key stakeholders – from governments, banks, financiers, investors, project owners, project developers, commercial farmers and the agro and food processing industry – to discuss trends that influence food and agribusiness economics over the next decade in Africa.

Fund Program Coordinator, Grace Mberia and Fund Communications Manager, Nashipae Leteipan, co-chaired and moderated the pre-event workshop on Day 1 titled Women in Commercial Agriculture and Agro-processing, and attended other sessions throughout the event including business matchmaking and networking sessions. Grace was also part of a panel discussion on Day 3.

The Women in Commercial Agriculture and Agro-processing workshop was split into 3 panel sessions with key topics as below: 

Session 1: Fast-tracking Active Participation of Women in the Agricultural Sector Beyond Primary Production into Agro-Processing, Agribusiness, Commercial and Export Levels

In this session, Nashipae Leteipan highlighted the importance for women to be empowered within the agriculture value chain for them to complete the cycle beyond primary production. While moderating the session, Nashipae also highlighted that within the Fund, over 5 million customers have been reached with 35% being women in rural areas who have accessed and utilized financial services and products.

Some key outputs and learning from the session shared by the panellists were that for the gap to be bridged on the challenges faced by women in the agricultural sector access to markets, infrastructure, networks and systemic funding are key in the sector. In addition, it is important for women within the sector to be equal partners, be provided with the proper tools such as capacity building, which is important in strengthening the agribusiness value chain.


Session 2: Mobilizing Capital for Women-Led and Influenced Agribusinesses – Investment Opportunities to Support the Development of Sustainable food Systems

This second session was moderated by Grace Mberia. She highlighted that proper financing needs to be channelled to women-led agribusinesses to enable their growth and development within the sector. She further shared that through the Fund, a portfolio of 38 participants have been financially supported which has been channelled by Fund participants into supporting smallholder farmers, with 5,000 direct jobs being created of which 38% have been for women therefore uplifting their livelihoods.


The key messages from the panellists were that finding and mobilizing the right funding structure, having a lateral view on financing within the sector to shift the paradigm from traditional financing methods to introduce other methods such as innovative finance and blended finance, as well as optimizing digital channels are key in mobilizing capital for women-led agribusinesses. Grace highlighted that within the Fund portfolio, some participants have offered input financing and layered on a component of insurance to smallholder farmers with this model proving to be lower cost than other current solutions. It was also noted that local governments need to become more cooperative in supporting the sector and in particular, women-led businesses in the sector. Working with local smallholder farmers on the ground is also key in identifying the needs required.

Session 3: Applying an Entrepreneurial Mindset to Ensure Business Growth and to Overcome Limited Access to Land, Training, Production Inputs as well as Finance and Credit

The third session was co-moderated by both Grace Mberia and Nashipae Leteipan. The session took a deep dive into how women can apply entrepreneurial mindsets to ensure business growth and overcome challenges. The key session outputs and learnings stemmed around the need for women to be capacitated for more growth opportunities within their agribusinesses. Elements such as the need for farmers to be provided with opportunities to collaborate with the core business for there to be on-ground needs assessment were highlighted. It was also noted that women can adapt a commercial mindset by being investing in financial literacy, communicating business growth when funding is raised to be more attractive to other investors and ensuring scale by managing business costs even as the business grows. An additional key factor shared by panellists was around the issue of technology adoption being slow within the agribusiness sector therefore affecting access to information and inputs. They noted that businesses need to invest in e-commerce as production cannot begin without the end-market being considered.

The workshop ended with the moderators sharing their overall insights from the panel sessions held and the key message being outlaid that women in the agribusiness sector need to be empowered from various angles in order to grow their businesses and remain sustainable.

Further along the event on Day 3, Grace Mberia also participated as a panellist during the session on ‘The role of Private Sector in Climate-Smart Innovation.’ Her panel session was titled ‘Are General Agriculture Economic Conditions Improving for Smallholder Farmers and Agribusiness Startups? Where are the Opportunities?’

During this panel session, Grace highlighted that economic conditions were improving for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. She noted that the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity has directly and indirectly impacted smallholder farmers by supporting private-sector businesses across agribusiness value chains. She also shared that some of the main economic challenges faced by the smallholder farmers stem around lack of access to funding and infrastructure amongst others. With infrastructure, she noted that serving smallholder farmers in rural areas presents a challenge. For some of the participant companies’ business models, financial services and products have been adapted to the situation and context of the different rural areas, such as deployment of on-ground support like agency banking models, to get smallholder farmers capacitated and enable them to access financial services. Grace also highlighted that through the Fund participants supported, over 171 financial products and services have been developed, including savings, credit, transaction, and insurance products. She also stated that over 2.9 million customers have received capacity building support (some in the form of financial literacy training), and all this has resulted in an expansion of access to financial services for over 5 million customers. 

Grace concluded by stating that financial support such as that provided by the Fund has contributed to improving overall conditions for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. However, there is still much that can be done by all players, including local governments to keep smallholder farmers profitable and sustainable by providing suitable and enabling conditions for them.

The African Agri Investment Indaba 2022 provided an opportunity for the Fund to raise awareness on how it has supported its portfolio of participants by providing financial support that has in turn strengthened their agribusinesses and achieved food security in one way or another. It also brought to light many key learnings and lessons from stakeholders within the sector. The event also provided an opportunity for the team in attendance to network with relevant stakeholders through the planned networking and matchmaking sessions and plan for future possible collaborations.

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