Fostering dialogue across the agri-finance ecosystem during times of crisis

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the SAFIN Secretariat has organized several virtual gatherings for network partners and other stakeholders in the agrifinance ecosystem to exchange insights and ideas on how the crisis is affecting agri-SMEs, and possible approaches to respond to their financial needs in the short and long term.

©IFAD/ Fahad Abdullah Kaizer

The first of these convenings took place on 17 April 2020, looking at how Nourishing Africa is supporting agri-SMEs to build resilience through regular virtual learning sessions, access to emergency funding opportunities and an ‘Ask an expert’ portal. The discussion during this session covered the role of technology and product affordability for agri-SME business model resilience, the importance of joint efforts by SMEs to engage with governments on the enabling environment, and the need to develop new skillsets for the sector, including agronomic and business skills.

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The second webinar, organized in partnership with the World Bank Group’s community of practice on agriculture finance (AgriFin), took place on 11 May 2020. The session started with a presentation of data and analysis conducted by FAO on the current impacts on agricultural supply chains and their possible consequences. The panellists addressed how the crisis is affecting farmers’ organizations, agro-dealers as well as African financial institutions operating in the sector, laying out areas where opportunities to build back better can be identified. During the Q&A session, panellists underlined the need for greater collaboration in the agricultural finance ecosystem, the importance of measures to improve women’s access to finance in agriculture, and the role of digitalization during the current crisis and recovery phase.

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On 02 June 2020, the third webinar in our Agri-finance and COVID-19 series was held with a focus on how venture capital providers, impact funds, and development finance institutions are responding to the financing needs agri-SMEs during the global pandemic. Speakers discussed the different investment and financing strategies currently in use by investors with agricultural or rural MFI portfolios in response to the crisis. They converged around a sense of urgency for better coordination between public and private financial institutions, and the role of blended finance to sustain the engagement of private impact investors in the agri-SME space.

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AgriFin and SAFIN also co-organized a webinar on 16 June 2020, diving into the role of non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) in serving entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector during this crisis. The webinar drew from the experiences of microfinance institutions and rural saving and credit cooperatives in Mexico, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. During the discussion, speakers emphasized the importance of building stronger linkages between NBFIs operating at the last mile and larger financial institutions operating at national level. The need to involve NBFIs in government-led response strategies to COVID-19 in the rural and agricultural finance sector, and to address arising liquidity challenges through public financial institutions was also highlighted.

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