A panel of some of Africa's most promising small and medium-enterprise (SME) agri-preneurs gathered online to call for more selective investment, accelerated business acquisitions and increased cooperation to help Africa feed itself and the world. The African Development Bank (AfDB) organised the virtual session titled: "Integrating African Food Systems through the Lens of SME Champions," recently.
The webinar was moderated by the Bank Director for agricultural finance and rural development, Atsuko Toda, said the panel members, were selected because they are using innovative solutions, tailored their business models, have a proven track record, and shown to have an impact on food systems.
"We see the importance of the roles that you play, the risks you take and the Bank wants to give you more visibility so that policy makers can understand the challenges of what you are facing and help SME Champions to grow," Toda said.
The group of African "SME Champions" - heads of SMEs across the continent's food system production, processing, logistics, agricultural digitisation and cold storage chain solutions sub-sectors, set the scene for webinar attendees, by describing the challenges and opportunities they face in trying to meet Africa's food systems demands. Some said policy, programs and financing in Africa are geared toward larger organizations and businesses - and that there is still too heavy a focus on agricultural imports to Africa.
"Especially if you are an SME it is really challenging to penetrate the market and do something significant," said Nicholas Alexandre, Global Head of Commercial at LORI, a Kenya-based tech-driven logistics company.