Spotlight on enterprise support organizations and their role in advancing agri-SME finance

This quarter, the long-standing conversation among agri-finance practitioners concerning best practices in technical assistance and the role of enterprise support organizations (ESOs) has been enriched by new themes and new contributions across different forums and events.

Photo: IFAD/Susan Beccio

In October-November, Nourishing Africa worked closely with SAFIN to carry out a mapping of the ESO ecosystem supporting agri-SMEs in eight African countries. This work was initiated to shed light on organizations that can support the delivery of a transformative food system agenda in these countries. The mapping exercise emerged as an outcome of an internal food systems dialogue among SAFIN partners held on January 11, during which a recommendation was made to benchmark ESO models that deliver proven impact on agri-SMEs’ access to finance and to facilitate alignment of offerings in that space.

At the end of October, Argidius Foundation and some SAFIN partners (notably the International Labour Organization and the International Finance Corporation) organized a three-day conference, named “Beyond the Known”. The event looked at innovations in the ESO global landscape as well as how donors and development partners can engage with them to move from supporting individual ESOs to nurturing ESO ecosystems that can accelerate the emergence of innovative enterprises in key sectors, including agriculture.

On 3 November, the SAFIN Secretariat hosted a fireside chat to discuss the findings of a recent report authored by Endeavor Insights with the support of Small Foundation, entitled “Supporting agripreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa and India: Recommendations for funders and decision makers”. Discussion at the event focused on the key challenges in achieving growth as reported by over 250 agri-entrepreneurs, and recommendations for investors, donors, ESOs and policymakers to improve the ecosystem of support to agri-SMEs.