In the framework of our upcoming AgriBusiness Forum to be held in Johannesburg from the 16 - 19 October, some of our speakers were invited to give their opinions on their different fields of expertise. In the run up to the forum, EMRC will periodically be publishing their interviews for members and partners.
: The AECF acts as a fund promoting private sector ‘competitiveness’ in Africa. Why did you decide to focus on the private sector? Why do you believe the private sector is the key to Africa’s development? Hugh Scott
: The key to development is economic growth (as equitable as possible). Economic growth requires governments to put in place a conducive environment for investment and a private sector response in terms of making investments. Without a private sector response, economic growth will not happen and poverty will not be reduced. The AECF, with its particular focus on promoting private sector in rural areas (where the majority of the poor reside) , aims to make a substantial contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction (through sustainable increases in jobs and incomes for poor people).EMRC:
Why do you consider competition as a means to ensure the development of Africa’s agriculture? HS
: The AECF receives public money from its donors (DFID, DANIDA, AusAID, IFAD, NFA etc). It is essential that this money is made available to the private sector in an open, transparent and fair mechanism. The challenge fund mechanism used by the AECF fits these criteria. In addition, the challenge fund mechanism surfaces very large numbers of business ideas and creates a much larger pipeline of potential investments than other funds are able to do. EMRC
: Through this innovative approach to develop Africa’s agriculture, what has been the reaction/success to the fund? HS
: The response to the AECF has been excellent so far. We have run 11 competitions in three years and received over 3,000 eligible applications. We have approved funding to 57 companies in 16 countries across Africa and expect to have 80 investments by the end of this year. Although it is still early days in terms of impact we estimate that over 1m poor rural people benefited from AECF’s investments in 2010. EMRC
: Why is it important for AECF to partner with such an event as EMRC’s AgriBusiness? HS
: We see the EMRC’s Agribusiness conferences as a useful channel for the AECF to publicise its work and reach out to the business community – our customers. In this case (the J’Burg Event) is particularly timely as we have 3 new competitions that will go "live” on 15th October – an Agribusiness Africa Competition (open to innovative agribusiness ideas across the continent of Africa), a South Sudan Window (special competition for Agribusinesses wishing to invest in South Sudan) and REACT (a renewable energy and adaptation to climate change competition open to business ideas in East Africa – 5 countries). EMRC
: A new competition will be launched in the near future. Please give us details about this. HS
: See above. We have 3 new competitions opening on 15th October – they will remain open to applications until 15th December 2011. To apply, businesses must go to our website (www. aecfafrica.org), register, download the relevant application, complete the application form and return it to us at the AECF. Guidance notes to assist applicants are provided with the application form. Winning applicants receive between US$250,000 and US$1,500,000 in grants and/or interest free loans – an opportunity not to be missed.