I was delighted to be appointed Chair of the AECF in early 2016. I was brought up in Ghana and as the grandson of cocoa and cassava farmers in Akyem Tafo and the beneficiary myself of a Cocoa Marketing Board Scholarship. I understand very well the transformative potential of the private sector on livelihoods and opportunities for rural farming communities.
The AECF funds businesses in the areas of agriculture, agribusiness, rural financial services and communications systems, renewable energy and adaptations to combat climate change that otherwise would not have access to sufficient capital. The AECF has received support from governments (Australia, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom), and international financial institutions (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and IFAD).
Over the past eight years, the AECF has demonstrated the strength of the challenge fund mechanism, the ability of the AECF to deliver, and the development impact of making catalytic investments in the private sector across Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, the impact of the AECF was greater than ever before with over 10 million rural people experiencing improvements in their livelihoods as a result of our support. Since 2008, the AECF has made a significant impact by funding 257 projects in 23 Sub-Saharan African countries, which have generated $471 million in additional net benefit. AECF investments create change in market systems, encourage innovative businesses and deepen the impact of private sector investment on the rural poor. Moreover, the AECF helps builds capacity and sustainable businesses by requiring successful applicants to contribute co-financing and have good business practices.
Since last year, the AECF has been undergoing a change program aimed at increasing its reach and impact. Key to this change has been the transition of the AECF to be a company limited by guarantee managed by a Board of which I am Chair. We are a proudly Pan African Fund and the make-up of our newly constituted Board reflects a commitment to expand the Funds reach beyond its existing areas of operation. During the transition all aspects of AECF management will become the responsibility of AECF Limited while we continue to be part of the AGRA family. This new structure will allow for greater efficiencies, agility and accountability, and will help ensure that the AECF is able to innovate in the products it provides and better serve the needs of African businesses.
I would like to thank our donors for their generous support and the Fund Manager for their great work over the past eight years. We are looking forward, as a Board, to taking the AECF onwards and upwards to meet new challenges and opportunities in a changing global environment. Support for innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to rural development has never been more critical to unlocking the huge but too often neglected potential of African rural communities. The AECF will play its full part with our partners in the business and development communities to support this great cause so that yet more lives may be transformed.
Lord Paul Boateng, Chair of the AECF Board