Great business ideas deserve serious investment

About AECF

The AECF makes its funding available through competitions. Private sector companies are invited to compete for AECF funds by submitting their new and innovative business ideas to a particular AECF competition. These ideas have to comply with the rules (eligibility and selection criteria) of the particular competition being applied for. The best ideas are awarded up to US$1.5m in grants and interest free loans. While each competition is different, all competitions seek business ideas from competent companies where the idea is commercially viable, innovative and will have a large development impact (large numbers of rural households having increased incomes etc).


Challenge Funds are a mechanism for allocating and disbursing funds efficiently and fairly. Organizations are invited to bid for scarce resources. Rules are set and publicized, covering eligibility, the bidding process and the way that bids will be evaluated. Separate bodies administer the process and decide on who gets an award, to avoid possible conflict of interest.

Why is the AECF challenge fund different?

  • It focuses exclusively on supporting the private sector
  • It provides an open and transparent "competition" for donor funds
  • It is based in, and run from, Africa
  • It is focused on funding practical projects that are both commercially viable and will have a broad developmental impact on the rural poor
  • It is structured and governed along private sector principles with strong and sustained business engagement to ensure a flexible, responsive, results-orientated approach that the private sector can understand
  • It leverages private sector and donor money to help fund successful projects and enterprises
  • It is able to support cross-border, regional and pan-continental projects, as well as national ones



The AECF is not registered as a legal entity. However, it has its own brand and is governed by its own charter and operations manual. The fund was established as a special partnership initiative of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which hosts the AECF.  The AGRA Board, under the Chairmanship of  Kofi Annan, has fiduciary responsibility for the AECF. A Sub-Committee of the AGRA Board, known as the AECF Committee, provides strategic direction. AGRA provides administrative and logistical support as well as being the legal entity for contracting purposes on behalf of the AECF. The AECF is managed on a day-to-day basis by KPMG International Development Advisory Services (KPMG IDAS).

The Board of AGRA

The Board of AGRA (chaired by Kofi Annan) is the body with ultimate fiduciary responsibility and accountability for the AECF's performance. The AGRA Board delegates the oversight and governance of the AECF to a Governing Council (Chaired by AGRA).

AECF Board Committee (AC)

The AECF Board Committee (AC) is a sub-committee of the AGRA board, consisting of AGRA representatives, AECF donor representatives and some independents. It is the strategic decision-making body for the AECF. The AC appoints and oversees an independent AECF Investment Committee that selects projects for financing and oversees the performance of the business ideas supported by the AECF.

The Investment Committee (IC)

The Investment Committee, consisting of one  AGRA staff member and four independent persons appointed by the AC decides which of the projects recommended by the Fund Manager should be funded by the AECF. The IC also oversees the performance of the business ideas supported by the AECF. The Fund Manager is secretary to the Investment Committee. On a normal basis the IC meets twice for each competition (at concept note stage and again at business plan stage) and a further two times a year for portfolio review purposes.

Executive Manager(EM) 

The EM is based at AGRA's offices in Nairobi with responsibility for the strategic management of the AECF, including liaison with AGRA, the AECF donors and the Fund Manager. Other functions include:

  • Coordinating the activities of the AECF committee.
  • Recommending strategy and policy changes.
  • Ongoing quality and process control over the operations of the Fund and the activities of the Fund Manager.
  • Monitoring the external environment of the Fund.
  • Liaison with related programs, such the Investment Climate Facility.
  • Fund raising for the AECF.
  • Reporting to AECF donors.

Fund Manager (FM) – KPMG International Development Advisory Services (IDAS)

KPMG IDAS was awarded the contract to manage the AECF following a competitive tender. KPMG IDAS retains the services of Triple Line Consulting (TLC) for monitoring, evaluation and dissemination of learning. The FM is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Fund, from its HQ offices in Nairobi, regional offices in Harare and Accra and a country office in Tanzania. The FM’s responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating the activities of the Investment Committee
  • Development of AECF mechanisms and procedures
  • Operational management
  • Marketing and pipeline development
  • Management of the AECF website
  • Application and grant allocation process management
  • Contracting and management of grants
  • Monitoring and evaluation of project implementation