About the event

Investors typically shy away from lending to smaller agricultural enterprises, because the financial costs and risks often don’t match the financial returns of these investments. The first session of the ‘Backing the Middle’ webinar series explores this notion, looking first at how some investors are using innovative tools to reduce the overall cost to serve small businesses in the sector and then discussing whether smaller enterprises can cumulatively generate more social returns than larger ones in terms of job creation, resilience and sustainable development. Is there a path to sustainably support small businesses along their journey to accessing commercial investments with market returns?


Songbae Lee, Agriculture Finance Team lead, USAID (Moderator)

Songbae leads efforts at the USAID to mobilize private capital for agricultural finance. Most recently, he spent eight years at Calvert Impact Capital, a non-profit impact investing debt fund, where he was responsible for end-to-end deal origination, credit assessment, and ongoing portfolio monitoring. Previously, he worked for Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Banc of America Securities, and Mercy Corps in Kyrgyzstan. He holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.S. from the University of Vermont.


Wouter Vandersypen, Executive Director, Kampani

Prior to becoming Kampani’s Executive Director, Wouter was a consultant for PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). He also worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee and the World Bank. Wouter is on the Board of Fairtrade Belgium, Trias, and a traditional private equity investment fund, called Invale NV. He holds a Master’s degree in International Relations & Economics from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a degree in Political Sciences from the University of Leuven, having studied in Leuven, Tübingen and Fribourg.

Jovitus Rutakinikwa, Country Manager, SME Impact Fund (SIF)

Jovitus  leads the SIF Tanzania Country Office to deliver both the vision and Mission of the organization, including overseeing and managing all aspects of the company’s operations within Tanzania. He is also responsible for strategic planning, business development, Portfolio growth, and financial management, ensuring that the organization’s goals and objectives are met. He also represents the company at external events and meetings. Jovitus has an extensive network and knowledge to continue developing SIF’s portfolio of high-impact enterprises in Tanzania. He holds a Bachelor in Economics, Policy and Planning.


Event Details:

Event dates: 22 February 2024

Location: Online

Organizer: SAFIN | USAID Marketlinks



Quote: "Supporting impact-first investors that have designed appropriate financial products for smaller or less mature enterprises and cooperatives should be a top priority for finance providers targeting this segment," Songbae Lee

Summary article:

The ‘S’ in ‘SME’ represents a market segment that financiers in the agriculture sector find too costly and risky to serve. This session focused on funding smaller agricultural enterprises that often seek loans worth US$ 50,000-500,000. Experts from the SME Impact Fund (SIF) and Kampani, two investment funds that successfully finance this segment, shared insights from their experiences. Below are three key takeaways from their approaches:

  1. Matching financial products with capital needs
  2. Balancing investment economics and development outcomes
  3. Building strong relationships on the demand and supply sides of agri-SME finance

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Session videos: