East Africa Agribusiness Challenge Fund Event

An East Africa Agribusiness Challenge Fund event was held in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday 9 April 2024. The event brought together SMEs, investors in the agribusiness sector, agribusiness associations, as well as youth, refugee and people with disability focused organizations.  

The event began with opening remarks from the Fund Engagement Partner, Smita Sanghrajka, gave her opening remarks welcoming and thanking everyone that attended the event. 


Grace Mberia


Grace Mberia, Fund Program Director gave an overview of the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Resilience and Prosperity, its objectives and interventions, while Wilson Irungu, Grants Lead gave insight and learnings from the journey with the previous challenge Fund, the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity.  Nashipae Leteipan, Communication and Convening Lead, gave a brief overview of the Funds objectives and interventions as well as the application process for the ongoing Agribusiness Challenge Fund call for proposals. 


Two panel sessions followed and are highlighted as below: 

Panel session 1: Exploring how support to SMEs can create work opportunities for young women and men, young people with disabilities and refugee youth/IDPs.  


Fund Portfolio Lead Joseph Sawe moderated this session that included Stephen Kiiru from Farm 

Africa, Thomas Ochieng and Gentrix Juma from the Agriculture Employers Association in Kenya, Meshack Sisenda representing Action Network for the Disabled (ANDY) and Wilson Irungu, the Fund Grants Lead.  

Meshack Sisenda gave insights around the accessibility challenges and discriminatory practices faced by youth living with disabilities (PWDs) when seeking employment. He explained how policies around agriculture do not consider persons with disability as they do not get the same opportunities due to the perception of heavy physical labour demanded by agriculture. He stated that most disabled people face immense challenges in gaining a livelihood, have limited access to education, face discrimination on the grounds of disability in the job market and encounter numerous infrastructural barriers.  He further highlighted that concerted efforts should be made to address these challenges, promote inclusivity, and ensure that support systems, financial services, assistive technologies, and agricultural extension services are accessible and responsive to the needs of all farmers, regardless of their disabilities.  

During the discussion on the challenges faced by refugees in accessing employment, Stephen Kiiru stated that refugees face many challenges accessing the job market including lack of visibility to jobs available, low literacy levels, lack of documentation and a mismatch of skills. He further stated that refugees face a challenge especially in acquiring work permits which has led to most doing unregistered work. The panel discussion then looked at the various ways refugees can be supported to access job markets such as work permits and ownership of property.  


Fund Grant Lead Wilson Irungu concluded the panel discussion by sharing insights on how the Fund aims to support SMEs to create work opportunities for young women and men, young people with disabilities and refugee youth. 

Panel session 2: Private sector investment in the Agricultural Sector 

The second panel session was moderated by the Fund Portfolio Manager, John Kavilu. The panellists included Addis Alemayehou, Chairman of Kazana Group (Ethiopia), Rachel Dumba, Farmer Services Unit Manager at Ibero Uganda, Cleopas Ndaramu Chief Operations officer at Inuka Africa Ltd and Winfred Kinuthia, Fund Grants, Finance, and Operations Manager. 

The panellists discussed various funding instruments within the agriculture sector that need to be utilized to achieve agricultural investment at a meaningful level. Addis Alemayehou gave a key pointer stating, “for this Fund to create impact at scale, young women and men need to be motivated to get back to the farm, and SMEs have an important role to play in changing youth mindsets to motivate them”. Cleopas Ndaramu added that, ‘’apart from the overarching access to finance barrier, many other risks affect SMEs in the agriculture sector including volatile product pricing, difficult operating environments, and land ownership challenges”. Rachel Dumba brought out the need to tailor financial products to specific target groups for instance young women and men to enable uptake within the agriculture sector. 

The panellists shared various inputs around sustainable agricultural production systems and the need for additional capital investment which cannot be covered by the current financial market setup, which dissociates public and private funders.  

Winfred Kinuthia stated that by de-risking the agriculture sector, more youth will be attracted, and finance will flow into the agribusiness value chain. She highlighted that attracting and retaining youth in agriculture is key to reduce unemployment, distress migration and poverty as youth can be agents of change in the transformation of agri-food systems. She further shared that the Fund will utilize grant funding ranging from US$ 500,000 to US$ 2,500,000 and that SMEs will be required to provide 30% matching funds of their total project cost. 

The Fund Engagement Partner, Smita Sanghrajka gave the closing remarks thanking all stakeholders for attending and participating at the event and sharing insights that will help the Fund achieve its objective of supporting SMEs that can create dignified and fulfilling jobs for young women and men, young people with disabilities and refugee youth/IDPs.  

Overall, the Agribusiness Challenge Fund event was a success bringing together SMEs, investors in the agribusiness sector, representatives from agribusiness associations, and youth, refugee and people with disability focused organizations. This led to interactive sessions and valuable networking enhancing the Fund database of prospective applicants, potential partners for the Connect intervention and technical assistance service providers for the TA intervention. 


Event Videos

A number of videos taken at this event are available below that give more insight into the Fund and the Agribusiness Challenge Fund.


East Africa Agribusiness Challenge Fund event, NairobiThe Fund focus on work creation for young people. Smita SanghrajkaAbout the Agribusiness Challenge Fund intervention. Wilson IrunguAgribusiness growth challenges. Nashipae Leteipan