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Case Study: Food Security & Nutrition, Market Access

Challenge Fund to Accelerate Pro-Poor Growth in Africa

Farming First Farming First

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Gavin Onley

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) is a US$50-100 million fund that supports private sector investment benefitting the rural poor in Africa. AECF is hosted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and is funded by some of the biggest names in development finance.

A Challenge Fund is a mechanism for allocating and disbursing public funds efficiently and fairly. Organizations are invited to bid for scarce resources, not unlike a tender, but what counts is the quality of the response, not price.  The intention is to get funds to the organisations that truly need them and can use them effectively to realise the broader aims of public policy; and to do this transparently. In the case of AECF the overall policy aim is to promote new ideas that will lead to growth in the rural economies of Africa and creating new opportunities for systemic change in the markets that serve them. The challenge is to identify business ideas with a positive impact on the rural poor through increased incomes, employment, productivity and/or reduced costs. 

The Research Into Business (RIB) window is a special fund of the AECF that is open to business ideas based on the products of agricultural research.  The RIB Funding Window page of the AECF site provides an on-line application form, and guides to completing it. Applicants must also show how the concept will impact on the livelihoods of people in rural Africa. Proposals that are considered to have the greatest positive impact on the rural poor in Africa are invited to present a detailed business plan. Applicants’ Co-investment companies must invest an amount equal to, or greater than, the total funds requested from the AECF.

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