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Message from the Coordinator

12.01.2015Stefan Nalletamby

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! 2014 was an important year for the MFW4A Partnership Secretariat, characterised by substantive progress in the implementation of our 2012 - 2014 Strategy and our move from the African Development Bank's (AfDB) temporary home in Tunis to the Bank's statutory headquarters in Abidjan. The move was made possible thanks to the resilience and goodwill of our staff who worked hard to ensure business continuity.

The third Partnership Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in June 2014 was a significant milestone for us. The event provided a unique opportunity for African opinion leaders, financial sector stakeholders and development partners to take stock of progress in Africa's financial systems, share experiences, exchange best practices, and discuss innovative approaches to challenges facing African financial systems. All of us at the Partnership Secretariat are grateful for your enthusiastic support as evidenced by the participation of more than 350 delegates from over 40 countries. Our thanks also go to the Organising Committee for putting together such a rich event. You can view a selection of photos from the Forum on Flickr, and download the full Forum report from our website.

In 2014, the Secretariat placed special emphasis on its work with African financial sector stakeholders. The Advisory Council was revamped and reconstituted as a smaller body with a mandate to provide advice and effectively support and contribute to the Partnership's strategic objectives. We look forward to engaging with our new Advisory Council members in 2015. Last year also saw the establishment of the African Pension Funds Network (APFN), a platform for the exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst industry participants across the continent. The network already counts several achievements, including the release of a joint publication Pension Funds and Private Equity: Unlocking Africa's Potential, with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA).

We also continued to strengthen our existing networks, including the Community of African Banking Supervisors (CABS), whose 2014-2016 work plan and budget was endorsed by the Association of African Central Banks (AACB) Bureau. In agricultural finance, we supported the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) through institutional support projects. We hired an agricultural finance expert with the support of GIZ to help with the policy process in the CAADP implementation. GIZ also funded a study to review the status of agricultural finance policy coordination across five African countries. You can download the Synthesis Report in both English and French.

Another cornerstone of our success in 2014 was our commitment to support regional and pan-African networks. We launched programmes to support the Conference Interafricaine des Marches d'Assurance (CIMA), the insurance regulator covering 14 francophone countries in West and Central Africa; and, the Conseil Régional de l'Epargne Publique et des Marchés Financiers (CREMPF) the capital markets regulator for the West African Monetary Union (WAMU), to raise funding for their respective market development strategies.

We also continued to coordinate donors' efforts to support financial sector development. The Housing Finance Donor Working Group (DWG) initiated discussions on the launch of a training programme for the francophone participants, in collaboration with Cape Town University and under the leadership of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). Moreover, work plans were endorsed for both the Digital Finance and Remittances DWGs with plans to launch joint donor interventions in 2015 that respond to the priorities of Africa's financial sectors.

Our website was upgraded in 2014 to provide an enhanced browsing experience. The high and continuously increasing usage of the website, blogs, social media, newsletters, press digests, and the knowledge centre that houses publications confirm the value of MFW4A's knowledge products and services. We have also developed an Online Collaborative Platform (OCP) designed to facilitate interactions among MFW4A working group members, foster knowledge sharing and promote peer-to-peer learning. Last but not least, we have been maintaining a comprehensive Donor Projects' Database that is proving useful for our stakeholders seeking information on financial sector related projects in Africa.

Our Annual Supervisory Committee (SC) Meeting was held in December 2014, hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in their headquarters in Bonn, Germany. MFW4A SC members, staff, and some Advisory Council members discussed the Partnership's new three-year Strategy, expected to be endorsed at the end of January, 2015. The 2015-2017 Strategy will put the Secretariat and the Partnership in a stronger position to deliver the change that Africa's financial sector needs. Specifically, the Strategy aims to:

  • Transform MFW4A from a partnership of donors to a partnership between donors and African financial sector stakeholders;
  • Elevate the Partnership from its current position of a knowledge hub into an effective catalyst for positive change in the financial sector landscape; and
  • Ensure long-term financial sustainability for the Partnership and the Secretariat.

The achievements of the MFW4A Partnership Secretariat are the result of hard work and commitment of our partners and African financial sector stakeholders. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation for all of your support and engagement with our vision. MFW4A has become a key voice on financial sector development in Africa, and a lot of the interaction and the sharing of the knowledge and experiences in the field stem from the Partnerships' initiatives. Let's continue to keep this positive momentum going!

Stefan Nalletamby
MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

 

 

Financial Inclusion through Savings and Village Enterprises (FINISAVE)

24.11.2014Theopista Ntale Sekitto

Financial inclusion has become a contributing factor to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly MDG1, which promises to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The MDGs also include a gender-specific target for achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all. MDG3 is aimed at promoting gender equality and empowering women, and includes a specific reference to women's economic empowerment. Globally, women account for 66% of the labour force and have played a major part in the growth of small businesses. Women entrepreneurs, in particular, are contributing significantly to economic growth by creating jobs and generating revenues. Yet, women-owned businesses' access to credit remains difficult.

In rural areas of Africa, women constitute the largest percentage, 70% of the rural labour force that derives their livelihood from subsistence agriculture. A large number of these farmers aspire to employing better production techniques that can lead to increased output. However, they are dealing with challenges of access to capital that would enable them re-invest their businesses. Only thirteen per cent (13%) of rural people obtain loans from banks for re-investing in agricultural production. This lack of access to finance for the poor, particularly for rural women is attributable to a number of factors including, the location of their businesses and banks' perception of agricultural lending as risky business. Currently, there a few products for agricultural lending tailored to suit women's needs and to couple this, the lending criteria employed by banks is complicated for women. Moreover, the reality in most African countries is that women lack access to and control of land, which serves as collateral for bank loans. There exists also a fear by women to walk into banks and/or financial institutions due to the language barrier. The list can be endless: Mobility restrictions due to the geographic spread of homes across large areas; low levels of education and business training that hampers skills in record keeping, business plan preparation and general management of the business. All of these barriers affect the performance, growth and sustainability of women's enterprises.

In addition to these barriers, the New Faces New Voices (NFNV) Uganda Chapter, a Graca Machel Initiative, identified specific gaps for rural women in terms of access to finance including: little or no formal education, inadequate training on formal financial literacy, women being perceived as housekeepers and not fit to participate in economic activities and poor infrastructure in rural areas.

Against this backdrop, and in an effort to address the challenges of women's access to finance in rural areas, NFNV Uganda Chapter, in partnership with the Uganda National Entrepreneurship Development Institute (UNEDI) began implementing a Financial Inclusion model through the Savings and Villages Enterprises (FINISAVE), a financial cooperative model aimed at increasing the availability and size of finance in remote areas. The FINISAVE Model is based on two schools of thought: (i) People do earn some income but need to be guided on responsible spending and on investments that fall within their income; and (ii) collectively pooling resources together for improved household incomes while working hard on key productive value chains. The FINISAVE model was pilot tested in Lwengo District, with more than 125,000 women entrepreneurs, and a total of 250,000 men and women in 465 villages benefitted from this initiative.

We noted the following during implementation: (i) The sharing of costs through a public-private-civil society partnership has assisted in addressing the lack of infrastructure in women accessing financial institutions in rural areas; (ii) through the formation of savings and investment village based groups that is linked to a commercial bank via mobile banking, women in rural areas are able to work in profitable and sustainable investment cooperatives; (iii) the model underscores a paradigm shift in the cultural and traditional beliefs that a woman is a mere house labourer. This was done through a high-level business and financial literacy training programme, which encouraged communities to move towards self-discovery, a mind-set change, enabling a woman to identify opportunities around her. These women, who had previously not seen the inside of the bank, can now confidently walk into a bank with clear knowledge of the banking services, products and their rights as consumers.

Looking forward and from what we have learnt from this process, regulatory authorities and financial institutions should:

  • regulate agent banking services shifting from a corporate culture to a pro-poor service delivery that is context specific;
  • create rural women guarantee and production material subsidy funds;
  • embrace and highly promote the policy of public-private civil society partnerships in financial service delivery;
  • design products that can be accessed by all categories of the female clients especially those at the lowest financial strata;
  • build capacity to serve women as a special segment by developing new finance models specifically geared towards increasing access to finance. The proposed initiatives should address the gendered factors that constrain the growth and sustainability of rural women's businesses.
  • There must be a mind-set change and paradigm shift that the rural populace are merely recipients of corporate responsibility to financial institutions and that poverty is part of the package for rural communities in Africa. This will be a missed opportunity, as the rural populace are credible, vital contributors to the economies in Africa.

Paving the Way for Capital: The Role of Technical Assistance in Mobilising Finance for Smallholder Farmers and Businesses

27.10.2014Jane Abramovich and Matt Foerster

Today, much of the conversation around smallholder agricultural finance is happening among an inspiring yet small group of social lenders and investment funds. These pioneering institutions have developed new products and disbursed millions of dollars in support of smallholder agriculture worldwide. However, as highlighted in Dalberg's recent report, an estimated gap of $400 billion still exists between demand and supply of finance to smallholder farmers. Without access to financial products and services, smallholders and agricultural enterprises are unable to purchase necessary supplies, expand production and increase their incomes.

There are several opportunities for non-lenders to play a more active role in closing this gap. Organisations that provide training, technical assistance and financial advisory services can help "de-risk" agricultural finance by offering farmers, cooperatives and small businesses capacity building and advisory services. With local knowledge of smallholder realities, expertise on value chain dynamics and established in-country networks, these organisations are uniquely positioned to offer multiple benefits to stakeholders throughout the financial ecosystem. By providing training and capacity development, they help smallholder farmers and small businesses understand, forecast and communicate their financial needs to potential lenders and investors. By designing and implementing transparency tools and processes, they help lower transaction costs for financial institutions and often serve as their "eyes and ears" before and after investment. Based on insights from regional projects in value chains such as cashew, cocoa and coffee, we identified four scalable approaches for how technical assistance providers can increase access to financial products and services for small farmers and businesses while reducing risk for capital providers.

1. Agricultural value chains and market systems can be strengthened through programs that develop capacity, promote market connections and improve business environment. Organisations can operate as a catalyst to strengthen agricultural value chains and market systems. These programs often begin with a value chain assessment and an industry strategic plan to determine pathways for growing a sector, addressing market failures, identifying and quantifying opportunities to benefit producers. Financial institutions can use these analyses as blueprints for expanding lending into new and unfamiliar markets.

2. Develop a pipeline of investment-ready clients. In order to prepare clients to access growth capital, technical assistance providers can offer pre-investment training including helping cooperatives and small businesses to develop business plans, improve operational efficiencies, build financial models to forecast revenues and cash flows, assess appropriate capital requirements, and provide transaction support in applying for loans or negotiating contracts. Technical assistance providers can also play a valuable supply side role by training bank analysts and loan officers on the economics of agricultural value chains. Lenders can then better evaluate financial health and viability of potential clients, as well as more efficiently structure investments, deploy capital and monitor performance.

3. Build data-sharing tools to promote transparency and streamline due diligence and monitoring. Agricultural finance continues to suffer from an information gap that drives market uncertainty and limits efficient capital flows. Recognizing the lack of cost-effective tools to collect, analyse and track information about client performance, many organisations have started to develop their own in-house mobile and cloud-based platforms to deliver real-time data to lenders and buyers. As the market continues to evolve, consolidation and efficiency gains can yield even more cost-effective and broadly applied solutions.

4. Design specialised risk management solutions. Risk is inherent in agriculture, but technical assistance providers can help mitigate this uncertainty by bringing together market players with skills and resources to design loan guarantees, risk-sharing models and matching funds based on appropriate incentives. When such mechanisms are structured along-side technical assistance and with the long term plan for any exit of donor and subsidy support, these mechanisms can lead over time to sustainable financial solutions for smallholders and small businesses.

Depending on their financial health and objectives of its clients, TechnoServe integrates the above approaches into its programmatic activities. Where appropriate, we provide our clients with simulation-based financial literacy training through our "Farming as a Business" and "Keys to Financial Success" curricula. Beyond training, TechnoServe's field-based network of more than 600 full-time business advisors and farmer trainers work hand-in-hand with farmer organisations and small businesses, helping to strengthen their operations and become more profit-oriented.

For example, building on an industry strategic plan developed for the East Africa coffee sector, which formed the core component of TechnoServe's Coffee Initiative, the program helped aggregate production from nearly 200,000 farmers and supported farmer cooperatives in building and upgrading 285 wet mill businesses. During the first four years, the program provided critical advisory on product quality and sustainability standards to the participating wet mill businesses. To address the lack of transparency in the local value chains, TechnoServe launched CoffeeTransparency.com, a cloud-based platform that delivers real-time data to lenders and buyers. During the harvest season, the system is populated daily with SMS reports from more than 80 coffee wet mills in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Four financial providers subscribe to the system, which has reduced the costs and logistical constraints of rural finance by offering powerful financial and performance metrics comparable over time and across clients. In 2013 alone, this system helped more than 50 cooperative and private coffee wet mills in Rwanda to access more than $3 million of working capital. In parallel, in Ethiopia where financial landscape is particularly challenging, TechnoServe established a new risk-sharing partnership between the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Nib International Bank, one of Ethiopia's largest private commercial banks. With a $10 million risk sharing agreement from IFC, Nib has made available a revolving loan facility to more than 60 coffee cooperatives, reaching 45,000 farmers. As a result of the integrated approach, TechnoServe clients were able to access $38 million in long-term credit and working capital over just the first four years.

The presence of technical assistance providers in certain farming systems or value chains can play a critical role in incentivizing lenders to engage in smallholder finance. Buyers and traders are also more willing to extend financing when a technical assistance provider is involved, particularly when the duration of technical assistance and financial exposure is aligned. When delivered effectively, collaboratively and with a long-term vision, technical assistance to farmers, cooperatives and small businesses can pave the way for increased capital flows from financial institutions.

However, it is all too common that either capital is available and technical assistance is not, or vice versa. What is needed is a coordinated approach that links provision of capital to provision of technical assistance. This must be addressed in ways that incentivize the respective institutions to work together to benefit smallholder farmers and agricultural enterprises. Over time, this will unlock new income-generating opportunities for rural communities and help to close the smallholder-financing gap.

TechnoServe is an international non-profit development organisation headquartered in Washington, DC. Since its founding in 1968, TechnoServe has successfully used a private enterprise approach to assist low-income people in the developing world to build and strengthen sustainable businesses, industries and the enabling environment. Over 46 years, we have been a trusted partner with corporate, foundation and public development partners, implementing diverse value chain, market-led agriculture development, and entrepreneurship capacity building programs. For more information about TechnoServe please go to www.tns.org or email A2F@tns.org.

Smelling the Coffee

28.10.2013Matt Troniak

All of us are working hard to help the world be a better place.

In the agriculture sector we work every day to develop innovative means of financing agriculture, growing crops, and getting them to market, new ways to assist the poor break the traps of poverty and illiteracy. We combine these activities with double, triple, and quadruple bottom line measurements that seek to, notably, protect the environment, help minorities and empower those that we feel need to be empowered.

Additionally, we have taken on the issues of risk mitigation, power, transport, water, storage, new seeds, new crops, new pesticides and herbicides, microfinance, rural finance, family financial services, literacy and numeracy, to name but a few. And yet we are still far from done in terms of achieving our objectives.

One of our latest models is agricultural value chain development, competitiveness, and financing. We have recognized that to grow food and make a living at it, other than feeding oneself in a subsistence manner, commercial linkages need to be improved. We have acknowledged that access to markets and customers has to be strengthened, as well as production, to meet the markets needs, wants and desires whether they are real physiological needs or derived needs.

We all work on these issues very diligently taking into account the best tools we have and referring to them as best practices. However the more advanced we get as advisors, donors and developers, the more our space age systems appear to be neither understandable, nor very affordable, to the people we expect to use them.

So in many cases after our donor funds for support projects and programs run out, the pilot projects collapse and the people we seek to help revert back to their age-old ways of life which after all have proven to be effective after thousands of years of use - right?

So we watch our good work go from tractors and roto-tillers to hoes and ox drawn ploughs, from high yield seeds, fertilizers and pesticides to traditional crops and ways of growing them. Maybe some larger farms tied into value chains, which have contracts to supply to growing food and beverage retailers survive with the new ways and it is these that set in motion the normal survival of the fittest which we have become accustomed to in our economic system. The ancient Roman "latifundia" re-emerges on the production side, powerful traders and their corporate value chains/supply chains take over the profitable market segments leaving the rest to survive as best as they can. To compete with these organizations which are highly efficient and highly productive in part by lowering costs, we are seeking to get small holder producers (farmers and their associated MSMEs in the agro food processing chains) to increase efficiency, improve competitiveness, improve product quantity and quality, and keep low prices. On the other hand we are hoping that the agricultural sector that currently employs so many in the world will absorb more labour as well as raise incomes and standards of living, and slow down the rural urban migration that is changing the face of the world.

So let's pause for a minute and reflect on this "efficiency and competitiveness model" and the potential for it to meet our needs. If we look around we might see many markets where the major chunk of the sales, production and profits are concentrated within a few large transnational corporations able to mobilize human resources, production technology and finance to deliver affordable products available when and where consumers want them. This process is facilitated by the population concentrated in cities as the rural to urban migration trends continue and supermarket chains decide on the products to be offered along with the standards to be met.

So can we achieve food security the way we are trying to achieve it so that all people at all times have access to affordable, sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life?

Do we have the ability amongst ourselves to help coordinate the systems, processes, and structures in place to ensure this has a high probability of happening? Do we go small, go large, go modular, go integrated, or go in all directions at once? Do we need to change the way we are doing things? How do we deal with the increase in interest in using food as an alternative investment vehicle so that our investors are able to hedge, diversify and achieve the yields required by the financial market on their portfolios? Is food, its trading and pricing, the same as oil, gold, small cap stocks, treasury bills, bonds and mortgage backed securities?

How do we balance the corporate concentration that occurs when economies of scale in organized value chains, (that are very competitive, capital and technology intensive, use less labour and smaller numbers of intensively grown crops), versus the small scale, low efficiency and high cost food producers that feed and employ so many in the world?

There has never been a better time than now to wake up, smell the coffee, and look at where we are really heading. Recessions, economic slowdowns and budget cuts have a way of concentrating the mind and focusing attention on what is needed to be competitive and thus survive in this world of ours.

What do you think?

The author has worked in the areas of agriculture investment and development including value chain financing for over ten years in Africa and Asia. He is currently involved in researching and implementing, as well as training on, risk mitigation tools to enhance the flow of funding to agriculture production and processing with a focus on Small and Medium Enterprises in agricultural value chains in emerging markets.

Planning for the Perfect Storm: Regulation of Commodities Trading in Agricultural Products

23.05.2011Matt Troniak

Today, as fuel prices go up, and food prices increase, we are all well aware of the risk of social unrest and civil strife. The world needs affordable food, for a growing population, in a natural environment that is increasingly volatile due to climate change. Whether we can meet these needs will depend upon how we evaluate and address the agricultural investment risks and returns and how we regulate investment in agriculture.

Investors are well aware of this opportunity. Blackrock Global Funds in marketing its World Agricultural Fund comments: "The agriculture sector has, to an extent, lagged other parts of the commodity markets. However, the demand fundamentals continue to improve and with inventories in some agricultural commodities at historically low levels, we believe agriculture is a compelling long-term investment. We have identified three powerful drivers of agricultural commodity demand. These are; rising population, rising incomes and the growth of biofuels.With inventories in some agricultural commodities at low levels, these demand drivers are likely to put upward pressure on prices."

In addition to the traditional risks in agriculture we now have a large and growing man made risk. This is the risk that results from the "financialization" of food commodities. The free market system combined with international trade and international finance enables wondrous technology and a standard of living beyond compare in some parts of the world enabled by investments attracted by the risk reward trade off. But the dark side of these free markets could be viewed to be financial speculation on food facilitated by un-regulated or loosely regulated markets.

An interesting question that is facing us is whether it is morally and ethically correct to "speculate" on food? Is it correct to allow un-controlled and un-regulated profit seeking to withhold grain supplies in a period of shortage? Is the way we account for profits in the scenario correct when we do not charge the private sectors profit and loss statement with the costs of social unrest, riots, wars and the like? Should we do anything to ensure this profit seeking is moderated and regulated? Do we truly believe that "Greed is Good?", as the character Gordon Geko in the movie Wall Street said. Have we not just seen and experienced the result of poor regulation and oversight on the world economy. Can we afford to take this risk with our food?

Fortunately there are already calls for regulation of financial speculation in commodities and thus food commodities. But the requisite legislation and regulation is far from implementation. There is "a pressing need for new measures of transparency and regulation to deal with speculation on agricultural commodity futures markets," said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO.

In the report World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011 published by the UN it is noted as follows: "The traditional function of the commodity exchanges has been to facilitate price discovery and allow for the transfer of price risk from producers and consumers to other agents that are prepared to assume such risk. But these functions have become impaired by the growing “financialization of commodity trading."

In the article "How Institutional Investors Are Driving Up Food And Energy Prices" by Michael W. Masters and Adam K. White, CFA ed. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the authors note that: "When Physical Hedgers dominate the commodities futures marketplace, prices accurately reflect the supply and demand realities that physical consumers and producers are experiencing in their businesses. When Speculators become the dominant force, prices can become un-tethered from supply and demand, reaching irrationally exuberant heights."

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in an article “What Explains the Growth in Commodity Derivatives? By Parantap Basu and William T. Gavin, ed. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, documents: "During the past decade, many institutional portfolio managers added commodity derivatives as an asset class to their portfolios. This addition was part of a larger shift in portfolio strategy away from traditional equity investment and toward derivatives based on assets such as real estate and commodities. This trading was directly related to the search for higher yields in a low interest rate environment. The growth was both in organized exchanges and over-the counter (OTC) trading, but the gross market value of OTC trading was an order of magnitude greater. This growth is important to note because a critical factor in the recent crisis was counterparty failure in OT C trading of mortgage derivatives."

In this regard we need to consider the issue of investment in agriculture in our deliberations on Making Finance Work for Africa. We should seek to assist governments, producers, and consumers to regulate their Commodities Exchanges and Over the Counter Markets to ensure that they function to enable price discovery, facilitate agricultural trade and financial hedging, and to ensure that "speculation" is driven out of the food commodities market. If we do not do this - we increase the financial, social, political, and economic risks in fragile states and emerging nations alike and we do so at our peril.

The author has worked in the areas of agriculture investment and development including value chain financing for over ten years in Africa and Asia. He is currently involved in researching and implementing, as well as training on, risk mitigation tools to enhance the flow of funding to agriculture production and processing with a focus on Small and Medium Enterprises in agricultural value chains in emerging markets.

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