Sub-saharan Africa has some of the lowest crop yields in the world with the volume of high performing varieties produced in Africa being currently available for less than 10% of total arable acreage.
With farmers still producing mostly for home consumption and less than 50% left for marketing, Africa’s potential to become a net exporter of food to the rest of the world, is marred by an annual food import bill of US $35 billion that is estimated to rise to US $110 billion by 2025. In a report by Africanews.en on D. Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), noted that this situation undermines agriculture and exports jobs out of the continent.
This is money that could otherwise be put to better use to bolster Africa’s economies and increase the wealth of smallholder farmers and other actors in the agricultural value chains, who stand to benefit from new jobs and businesses created to feed Africa.
The AECF with funding from Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Syngenta Foundation have designed a new competitive financing initiative that seeks to addresses the funding gap that many seed companies face when considering production of seed for food security crops particularly, publicly-bred varieties. This initiative is known as Seeds for Impact.
Seeds for Impact (SISP) is a 6-year program that aims to make the seed market systems work better for smallholder farmers across Africa. The program will increase the incomes of smallholder farmer households across Africa, with about 3 million people expected to benefit within the program period. The program targets seed companies in 11 countries namely Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.
SIP will also target distributors to satisfy seed market needs in sub-Saharan Africa through the introduction of improved varieties and technical assistance. The program will also link investees to research and development information available at indigenous public research stations, facilitate access to technology scouting services, business planning, trials, licensing, registration, technical support for seed production and monitoring & evaluation. Investees will also have access to AECF Connect services that provides financial advisory and match-making for follow-on financing.
The Program, is set to grow into a US$ 50M fund by 2020 and accessed by 40-60 small and medium-sized seed companies. This funding will specifically be a “bridge” program for existing seed companies between early growth (e.g. with grant funding) and major scale up with social impact investors (via AECF Connect).
Building on the successes of previous pilot investments in the seed sector, and investments already made by various governments and other stakeholders, SIP has been developed to increase smallholder farmers’ access to high yielding seed varieties and planting materials beyond hybrid maize, effectively enabling them to increase production and improve their livelihoods.
We look forward to partnering with companies and investors ready to invest with us in making our vision a reality. The first round of the competition opens to companies registered in Africa in fourth quarter of the year, and will run for six weeks, after which successful companies will be selected for the next stage.
For inquiries send an email to email@example.com
By John Kavilu, Senior Portfolio Officer