Every year, members of the Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network (SAFIN) and other practitioners from the agricultural finance sector come together at the SAFIN Annual Plenary Meeting to exchange ideas on how to shape the future of financing agricultural SMEs. On 21-22 November 2022, experts from over 47 institutions convened at the network’s first hybrid event alongside the 7th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance.
The current global context was centre-stage at the event, which took place under the theme “Opportunity in an evolving landscape”. As the world grapples with the worst food crisis in generations, experts from the agriculture and financial sectors convened to discuss how they can work in concert to move more capital towards agricultural SMEs. Attendees at the event participated in 14 business and learning sessions featuring 27 speakers, 13 exhibitions booths, a virtual speed networking café, and two in-person members’ receptions.
Highlights from the SAFIN Annual Plenary Meeting 2022
Business discussions: Deepening SAFIN’s potential for impact on the ground
On 21 November, our members engaged in open discussions about recent progress made by the network and how to further strengthen its role in advancing access to finance for agricultural SMEs going forward. The discussions covered an enhanced membership structure, approaches to unlocking co-investment opportunities within the network, as well as initial experiences in establishing SAFIN regional hubs. In one of our signature design clinics, SAFIN members also shared their expertise in support of a new policy acceleration facility being developed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
From crisis to opportunity: Exploring responses to the pressing needs of agricultural SMEs
On Day 2 of the event, participants heard from sector leaders about how to close the financing gap faced by agricultural SMEs in the current global context.
“2022 will be remembered as one of the most turbulent years of our time as regards food systems under stress. It has affected not only the agri-food sector directly but the broader economics and finance around many agricultural and aquatic value chains,” said Dr. Leonard Mizzi, Head of the Sustainable Agri-Food Systems and Fisheries Unit at the European Commission in his remarks during the opening session.
During this session, impact investors that lend to agricultural SMEs explained how they have adapted their lending portfolios in response to the compounded global crises in recent years. Over five more learning sessions, participants discussed some of the successful models that have effectively rendered unbankable agricultural SMEs bankable; the need to maintain climate finance as a top priority amid new crises affecting agricultural supply chains; the key issues farmers’ organizations face in accessing financial products that are well adapted to their needs; the drivers of commercial viability in digital innovations for agricultural finance; and, best practices in business development support for agricultural SMEs.
Member exhibition: Exploring the continuum of support for agricultural SMEs within our network
Through a dynamic virtual venue, our members showcased their recent research and initiatives in 13 exhibition booths at the Plenary 2022. From impact investments to market incentive facilities and assessment tools, participants explored the inspiring ways our members provide financial and non-financial support to agricultural SMEs across the globe.
Making powerful connections, in-person and online
Our in-person attendees made connections and explored potential partnerships at a members’ cocktail on 21 November and a closing dinner reception on 22 November. Our virtual venue also afforded online attendees the same opportunity through a networking café, where over 50 one-on-one networking meetings took place.