Takeaways from the CASA Smallholder Investor Summit

CASA hosted three panels alongside the Deal Room at the Africa Green Revolution Forum. Each panel featured the launch of a new Evidence Report by the programme. These takeaways are not a summary of the research (find that here) Instead we captured some of the more interesting points made by the panellists. Also check out the video recordings of the panels below.

ICTs for improving investment readiness of small and medium agribusinesses

  1. ICTs are not the panacea to the challenges facing global food market systems
    ICTs are not the solution to all the challenges facing the global food market systems. However, they are increasingly recognised as an effective and efficient way to address the information, financial and market access gaps faced by the most vulnerable actors in the value chain – farmers through SMEs that source from them. If designed properly, these services have the potential to promote socioeconomic empowerment of smallholders while increasing the investment readiness of SME agribusinesses.
  2. ICT based agriculture Value Added Services should be focused on pre-existing bottlenecks while considering socio-cultural factors
    Using a business lens for the development of these services is critical to ensure the financial sustainability, relevance and impact of the service. It is also critical to understand that one size fits all doesn’t apply to these kinds of services, as customisation (e.g. languages and types of commodities) is key to ensure the durability and sustainability of these services.
  3. Digital technologies must respond to the needs of both SMEs and farmers
    In order to succeed (being able to make profit, reach scale, replicate to other geographies and have a positive impact at the farmer and SME agribusiness level), ICT based services must cater to the needs of both SMEs and farmers. However, lessons learnt from successful agri-tech is that those that bridge the needs of SMEs and farmers in a single service are often able to achieve commercial success and have a positive developmental impact. 


Effectiveness of agri-business incubation in emerging markets

  1. Donor and government support is key for most incubation programmes
    Incubators serve start-ups and early-commercial companies who cannot afford to pay the full commercial cost of an incubation programme. This means that most incubators are essentially financially unsustainable and the majority require continued financial support from donors and governments in order to continue operation and delivering services.
  2. The success of an incubator is contextual but standards need to be global
    Success of an incubation programme looks different in different contexts (i.e. varies by geographical area and type of value chain). In addition, long-term success also depends on the market uptake of the products and services offered by incubatees. However, efforts must be made going forward to develop global standards for measuring success – these should focus on value-for-money of the programme. 
  3. Finance is readily available for well-designed incubation programmes
    Financing is not the main challenge for incubators as finances are readily available for well-designed and well-thought-out incubation programmes. The key challenge is the capacity within governments and regions to establish well-articulated incubation programmes with clear measures of success. 


Bridging demand and supply of private investment capital for small and medium agribusinesses

  1. Lack of information is a key challenge for SMEs in accessing investment capital
    Financing for SMEs is available however many SMEs are not aware of available financing and criteria for accessing it. In some cases, SMEs are not aware that funding exists and that they are eligible to apply. Improving the flow of information on available investment capital is therefore key for increasing the demand of investment capital.
  2. Investments are needed to reduce the drudgery associated with agricultural production.
    Efforts must be deliberately made to ensure that investments made to the sector also goes towards agricultural production specifically to reduce the drudgery associated with subsistence farming.  Increased investments in the sector that promotes the use of improved agricultural technologies has potential to incentivise the youth to stay in farming and in rural areas.


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