Bridging the Financing Gap for Women in Agribusiness

Women are an integral part of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, representing up to 52% of the total population within the sector and responsible for approximately 50% of the agricultural labour on farms. In some African countries, women spend approximately 60% of their time on agricultural activities and contribute to the production of between 60% to 80% of the continent’s food.

Women entrepreneurs are at a crossroads. Despite the obvious benefits accrued to an economy in which women participate, their full potential has not been unleashed. The existing incentive systems do not meet the needs of the sector and the challenges posed by the new economy. New incentives and support to women entrepreneurs are imperative to building their capabilities and to enable them stay ahead of the competition both locally and in overseas markets.

In addition to this women also experience major constraints in seeking access to productive resources – far more than their male counterparts, which demonstrates a clear “gender gap” that ultimately undermines the continent’s productivity, inhibits women’s equitable and profitable participation in intra-African agricultural trade, as well as in regional and global agricultural value chains. Structural inequities in financial systems create barriers for women seeking access to finances, training, education, markets, paid employment and the creation of sustainable and prosperous livelihoods. This has led to a market failure – the market does not acknowledge the participation and leadership of women in fuelling transformation.

However, the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) is intentional in developing programs that help bridge the financing gap faced by women entrepreneurs in Africa i.e. the launch of the Investing in Women in Agribusiness Competition on 18th September 2018, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire with subsequent events in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. The program is a proposed US$ 50 million initiative that seeks to promote gender equality, food security and inclusive growth by reducing rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa through economic empowerment of women in agribusiness.

With an initial support of US$ 5.9 million from the UK government, the Investing in Women Program will provide concessionary funding in the form of grants and concessional loans to female owned/led entrepreneurs and companies creating economic opportunities for women in the agribusiness sector in the four target countries. The AECF will award funding ranging between US$100,000-US$1 million to 10-30 businesses through a competitive process, with 60% of the funding set aside for women entrepreneurs. The award further provides technical assistance in the development of concept notes and business plans to applicants in order to secure the best candidates with the most promising business models. In addition, AECF will provide tailor-made technical assistance for successful applicants, Business to Business (B2B) match-making opportunities and gender mainstreaming prizes for companies that make the most significant adjustments to their operations and business models to deliver sustainable transformation and opportunities for women.

While Africa boasts the highest growth rate of female-run businesses in the world, according to World Bank, women continue to face challenges that are unique to them. From social to financial barriers, women face numerous barriers on their road to success. Poor yields and low productivity are among the most problematic agricultural issues on the African continent today. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the underperformance of agriculture in developing countries is attributable to women’s limited access to productive resources and their inability to take advantage of opportunities in the sector.

Achieving the transformational change that Africa seeks in agriculture; one that can sustain the continent’s urgent food demands and the changing agricultural landscape, requires a clear understanding of the gender-gaps in the sector; among them access to finance and financial services, markets and trade-related constraints, infrastructure, training, technology and access to Information. Investing in women pays dividends and it makes sense.

The Investing in Women in agribusiness competition was launched on 18th September 2018 and will remain open for 6 weeks. Businesses wishing to apply should send their applications by 26th October 2018. Click here to apply

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