“Grow Africa, your immense contribution to African agriculture is exemplary.”

Akin Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture

 Grow Africa has received some remarkable and enthusiastic plaudits. Yet what is it about it that has enabled it to rapidly deliver change at scale, where so many others have failed?

Grow Africa can claim some big numbers. In May 2014, they announced that, during 2013, the partnership’s private sector commitments to invest in African agriculture doubled to a total of $7.2 billion. Of which $970 million was already invested, creating 33,000 new jobs and reaching 2.6 million smallholder farmers across 10 countries. At Grow Africa’s Investment Forum, leaders, including five Heads of State heralded this as remarkable progress for an initiative that is barely 2 years old. Raj Shah, head of USAID, stated that Grow Africa has shown that “success at scale is now possible. This effort can effectively end poverty and hunger in Africa.” Amena Mohamed, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor for post-2015 MDG planning, saw Grow Africa as a model to replicate to ensure that the vision for next MDGs could rapidly translate in to action, in a way that traditional development approaches have not proven able.

For Wasafiri, which has played an instrumental role in conceiving and managing Grow Africa, these accolades are clearly affirming and gratifying. Nonetheless, such unbridled enthusiasm begs the questions “What has made Grow Africa such a success?” and “Why is its approach not adopted more widely to deliver change on other systemic challenges?”

A recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “Shaping Global Partnerships for a Post-2015 World” examined Grow Africa alongside five other pioneering cross-sector initiatives to ask how to unlock collective impact at a global scale. It concluded, “The most important condition is establishing a backbone structure that acts as the glue, holding the partners together and ensuring that the other four conditions are in place. The backbone provides strategic coherence around the common agenda, establishes shared measurement and learning systems, supports the mutually reinforcing activities of the different partners, and facilitates continuous communication.”

While Grow Africa certainly embodies all those features, I believe the story of its success is more complex. Or rather, I think there are underlying aspects of the global political economy that usually subvert the emergence of such elements when people attempt to collectively tackle change at scale.

Alignment of interests

Grow Africa is blessed by emerging at a moment of alignment for political, commercial and social interests. The 2008 food crisis changed the underlying economics of agriculture. The world realized that Africa must become a global food basket if we are going to feed 9 billion by 2050, while accommodating changing consumption habits, and linking food to energy through bio-fuels. Enlightened businesses – small and large – realized that African agriculture was going to grow, and they had a strong commercial interest in being in the vanguard. Africa’s politicians serve citizens who are primarily rural, and half of whom are under 20. Their political imperative is to increase rural incomes and generate jobs, or risk wide-scale unrest and disaffection. And for development aficionados, agriculture represents the best opportunity to reduce poverty and hunger. Everyone from smallholders to multinationals, and from African Heads of State to G8 Development Ministers, could rally behind Grow Africa’s common agenda of accelerating investment for sustainable agricultural growth. The only sustained dissonance has come from a few Western-based, ideologically-driven voices who fundamentally distrust the private sector.

Few other global issues currently benefit from such alignment. Climate change is riven with competing interests and public health issues struggle to attract strong commercial engagement. However, the same would have been said about African agriculture a decade ago. Perhaps part of the secret is sniffing out the right historical moment when interests align, and then to forge global partnerships to drive change at scale as fast as possible while the political window of opportunity lasts.

Coalition of the willing

Grow Africa is also unusual in welcoming all parties, without finding itself paralysed by the outcome. Many multi-stakeholder initiatives end up crippled by one of two effects. Firstly their governance often demands consensus, which means they become hostage to minority interests. For example, whilst a reasonable number of governments and actors seemed willing to act on climate change, negotiations, in attempting to accommodate everyone’s demands, have either ended up in a stalemate or conceding to the lowest common denominator. Secondly, successful initiatives are asked to layer on issue after issue, until their mandate is too diffuse and complex to meaningfully deliver anything. CAADP (Africa’s overarching plan for agriculture) is at risk of this as it is expected to address issues as varied as nutrition, climate change, job creation, regional trade, tertiary education, natural resource management.

So far, Grow Africa has evaded these pitfalls. Its clear focus on the commercial and development opportunity presented by agricultural investment, has allowed it to welcome all parties who are committed to advancing the agenda – a coalition of the willing. Co-convened by AUC, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum, but serving a wide range of stakeholders from Farmers Organisations to Multi-nationals to donors, it has created a space in which minority voices are heard, but that majority interests then drive action.

The World Economic Forum’s role in this cannot be underestimated. Most influential development actors are effectively civil service in culture – whether governments, African institutions, donors, or multilaterals. Too often their accountability pressures are to avoid obvious failure, rather than to deliver results at scale – leading to an aversion to taking risks, a focus on appeasing all interests, and a default towards extending timelines rather than making swift decisions. The World Economic Forum brings a refreshing private sector orientation that, whilst very protective of reputation, is ultimately dependent on showing it can deliver.

For more insight into the work of Grow Africa, view the latest report

Swiss Re, one the world’s leading reinsurance companies, runs a leadership programme each year for its next generation of Managing Directors. To make the learning engaging, Swiss Re wanted to present the delegates with a business challenge that was real and compelling.

Wasafiri identified that providing insurance to Africa’s 600 million smallholders offered a huge commercial and social opportunity, but one that was going to demand Swiss Re staff to rethink traditional business models. Swiss Re was already pioneering new models, such as through a partnership with Oxfam and WFP in Ethiopia to strengthen the resilience of rural communities (see video below). But how could such models be taken to scale? Against this question, Wasafiri designed a 2-day business project that threw Swiss Re’s future leaders into the challenges and dilemmas of how to provide affordable, commercially viable insurance to smallholders at scale.

http://youtu.be/JgXEEH3lqXI

2014 will be the fifth year Wasafiri has run the simulation. Each year participants not only leave with rich learning about their leadership skills, but also with renewed passion for the role Swiss Re can play in generating shared value in Africa. Over this period, Swiss Re has also significantly scaled up its engagement in Africa, and programmes like R4, that were once managed as corporate responsibility initiatives, are now managed by commercial teams.

Agricultural production in Africa, undertaken in the main by smallholders, is a highly risky activity with poor returns. To realise Africa’s potential, there is a need to commercialise smallholder production, thereby increasing returns. But amongst a range of different inputs, such commercialisation requires greater access to finance.

Value-chain finance offers an opportunity to expand and coordinate financing for agriculture, as well as to improve efficiency by facilitating financial access and lowering agricultural costs and financing risks. Agriculture investment of this nature is being provided at different levels and by a range of private- and public-sector actors, with facilities financing smallholders that are integrated into value chains through the use of inclusive business models. Such models are therefore helping financing facilities to access smallholders, because the risks and operating costs for lenders are reduced when farmers are integrated into value chains.

Wasafiri (in partnership with Prorustica) was commissioned to carry out a mapping survey on best practices in this field by the AFRACA-CTA partnership on strengthening smallholder-inclusive value-chain finance in Africa. The study also extended to gauging the use of associated tools such as (mobile) technology and risk management mechanisms for enhancing agri-finance.

The intelligence generated by the survey is expected to inform future decision-making in efforts to advance farmer-friendly rural agricultural financial products and services in Africa.

Since inception in 2012, Grow Africa has catalysed a historic shift in private-sector engagement in African agriculture, with partner companies announcing over $10 billion in planned investment aligned to the national development goals of twelve target countries. This intent has translated into action, with over $2.3 billion invested, creating 88000 jobs, and reaching over 10 million smallholders in 2015 with new contracts, sourcing, services or training.

Wasafiri has been instrumental in the conception and implementation of Grow Africa. In 2011, Wasafiri realised that while CAADP – the African Union’s plan for transforming agriculture – was making progress with the public sector, it risked stalling unless its aspired private-sector response was triggered. At the same time, the World Economic Forum’s private sector-led “New Vision for Agriculture” was calling for transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships, but needed government counterparts to provide political leadership to advance enabling environment improvements.

Wasafiri connected these two efforts and Grow Africa was born as a partnership platform to accelerate investments for sustainable growth in African agriculture. Convened by the AUC, the NEPAD Agency, and the World Economic Forum, Grow Africa generates concrete commitments by companies for inclusive and responsible agri-investment, and facilitates multi-stakeholder collaboration to ensure this investment delivers shared value, as both commercial returns and a beneficial impact on jobs, incomes, and food security.

In addition, the Grow Africa Investment Forum offers a flagship annual event, bringing together Heads of State, Agriculture Ministers, leaders from business, farmers and civil society, and G8 Development Ministers to report on progress, highlight challenges, and showcase opportunities for investment and partnership (see video).

Grow Africa has contracted Wasafiri to provide programme support since its inception, including:

  • Strategy development, team coordination and programme management
  • Stakeholder engagement, especially with farmer organisations, domestic companies, African institutions and donors
  • Facilitation and communication support at Grow Africa Investment Forums, including event reports
  • Managing stakeholder engagement in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi.
  • Producing Grow Africa Annual Reports, to the acclaim of international leaders
  • Developing and maintaining Grow Africa’s first website
  • Securing donor finance worth over $10 mn.
  • Devising a comprehensive M&E strategy
  • Facilitating the Smallholder Working Group, a network of pioneering companies seeking to work with smallholders to make them more profitable an productive.
  • Researching and writing briefing papers on key topics such as Smallholder Delivery Models or Fertiliser Subsidy.

For Wasafiri, Grow Africa provides evidence that our approach to systemic change works. Grow Africa’s alignment of political and commercial interests and its unprecedented cross-sectoral collaboration have combined to generate the commitment, intelligence, direction and action required to deliver change at scale.

Its rapid progress also means this action-oriented partnership-based approach is inspiring the design of initiatives to tackle systemic challenges in other contexts, such as Grow AsiaPower Africa, Move Africa and the Zero Hunger Challenge. As the world looks to new collaborative approaches for delivering the SDGs, papers from the World Economic Forum  and the Harvard Business Review cite Grow Africa as powerful model for transformative, systemic leadership.

Wasafiri Consultant, Ellen Hagerman, produced a report on the on-going challenges to the development and implementation of regional infrastructure projects in Southern Africa with a specific focus on the North-South Corridor. The report incorporates both information and analysis based on consultations with approximately 50 stakeholders working on or associated with regional infrastructure development in Southern Africa as well as with individuals and organizations that can provide further analysis and perspective to the context under which infrastructure is currently being developed in the region and on the continent.

The report also aims to incorporate relevant findings and recommendations stemming from a review of recent literature and initiatives that seek to identify and propose recommendations of ways to address the challenges and barriers to infrastructure development. The report is available here: DBSA Report on Challenges to Regional Infrastructure Development Final Report May2012

At the L’Aquila G8 Summit in 2009, African leaders called upon the international community to coordinate support for agriculture on the continent through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as the leading African-owned initiative. They also called upon donors to do this in a manner embodying principles of aid effectiveness such as coordination, harmonisation, alignment and respect for country leadership.

At HQ level, this was to be achieved by donor agencies through CAADP’s Development Partners Task Team, which would provide a single point of contact for the AUC, NPCA and other African partners to communicate with the international community, and for donors to communicate in a consistent way with their field offices regarding how to advance support for CAADP.

Wasafiri was hired by 4 successive chairs of the task team to coordinate and support its activities, and over the course of 3 years, Wasafiri consultants provided much-valued continuity in managing the engagement of development partners with CAADP. Wasafiri was additionally charged with achieving the following key priorities for multi-stakeholder agreement in the context of CAADP:

  • Facilitating the Addis Consensus on Guidelines for Donor Support to CAADP at a country-level;Producing the Guidelines for Non-State Actor participation in CAADP;
  • Developing a CAADP Mutual Accountability Framework; and
  • Catalysing Grow Africa as the CAADP vehicle for generating private-sector investment.

The on-going alignment and commitment of donors has been key to enabling CAADP’s unprecedented progress in driving agricultural transformation on the continent, with CAADP held up as an international example of best practice for improved donor coordination. With Wasafiri’s support, the CAADP Development Partners Task Team has been the linchpin of working relationships between donors and African partners in advancing this historic progress.

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The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) recognises the importance of strengthening finance services for African agricultural transformation. This is even more the case as CAADP enters a new phase of supporting countries with implementation of their respective agricultural investment plans. However, the CAADP partnership currently lacks the expertise, resources and networks now required to adequately support countries in strengthening agri-finance.

Wasafiri Directors, Ian and Liberal worked together on linking MFW4A and CAADP

The Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) partnership is an initiative that is very well-positioned to respond to this need. In 2008, MFW4A defined agricultural finance as a priority, going on in 2011 to produce a policy brief on agricultural finance in Africa and the Kampala Principles, constituting a set of policy actions that are urgently needed to unlock agri-finance in Africa.

The challenge became how to mainstream the Kampala Principles and the policy brief recommendations into the CAADP framework. Wasafiri Consulting was contracted to provide an answer to this question, while building momentum between the two initiatives to combine CAADP’s political strength with MFW4A’s technical expertise to help solve the puzzle of African agri-finance.

The report produced by Wasafiri offered invaluable strategic and operational recommendations, and importantly facilitated mutual understanding and the establishment of an on-going symbiotic relationship between the two partnerships, a pivotal step forward in the quest to meet the financing demands of Africa’s agricultural transformation.

This is an historic time for the war ravaged country of Somalia. The comparatively smooth transition to a new government headed by ex-peace activist and educational campaigner turned president – the 57 year old Hasan Sheikh Mohamad – has generated a new wave of optimism for the region’s future. This buoyant mood builds upon the rapid progress being made in the fight against radical Islamic group Al Shabaab, who until late last year, held much of southern Somalia under its sway. Now, thanks to unprecedented regional military cooperation bringing together Ugandan, Burundian, Kenyan forces, with Ethiopian troops, Somalia’s iconic capital of Mogadishu has been reclaimed, and the prized southern port city of Kismayo has all but been recaptured. Al Shabaab are well and truly on the back foot, and their future looks bleak.

And Somalis are seizing the moment for themselves. Members of the diaspora are flooding back to the country from as far afield as Australia, Norway and the United States, bringing with them a spirited entrepreneurialism and cash. Capitalising on the growing stability, new enterprises are springing up across the battle scarred streets of Mogadishu. Freshly painted coffee shops, newly constructed hotels, and electronics stores laden with the newest appliances from Dubai all are materialising from the rubble that has defined the past 20 years.

Of course, much remains to be done to ensure this brief moment in time heralds a sustained recovery from a history bleached by entrenched conflict, crippling corruption, and oppressive regimes. Somalia has often been described as ‘the world’s most failed state’, a label which rightly angers many Somali’s nowdays. Yet there is no denying that the region remains dangerously fragile. The biggest risk is that this volatile time of political transition sparks more fracturing rather than unification, incites new conflict rather than peaceful settlement over timeworn issues.

The balance hangs in the hands of the Somalis themselves. Yet the regional powers have a critical role to play in ensuring their support is not driven by self-interest at the expense of wider stability. And the international community, in Somalia’s case a growing range of actors with increasingly diverse interests, must remain consistent and coherent in its support of the country’s rebirth.

My role as Senior Stabilisation Adviser for the British Office for Somalia, sees me heading a team at the sharp end of the international community’s assistance to the region. We are charged with working in areas newly ‘liberated’ by military forces, helping to restore stability, and create the conditions for longer term recovery.  It is certainly no easy task, yet the early signs of progress are appearing – we are supporting Somalis to establish local administrations, implement community security programmes and rebuild basic infrastructure like roads and markets.

Yet one-off stabilisation projects will only go part way to solve the problem. The real challenge in such a fragmented, fractured landscape, to Somalis and internationals alike, is to find new ways of forging concerted action. Action that brings together the Somali businessman from London keen to invest in his old neighbourhood, with the newly appointed District Governor, with a group of young unemployed men, with the women from the local market, with the head of the African Union military unit, alongside the police commissioner… to decide for themselves what the real problems are, and how they are going to solve them together.

Crack that, and the rubble of Somalia’s history may just be swept aside once and for all.

In the framework of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in May 2010 in Bonn/Germany, South Africa, South Korea and Germany launched the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV. The overall aim of the Partnership is to support a practical exchange on mitigation-related activities and MRV between developing and developed countries in order to help close the global ambition gap.

To this end, the activities of the Partnership contribute to the design and effective implementation of ‘Low-Emission Development Strategies’ (LEDS), ‘Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions’ (NAMAs) and ‘Measuring, Reporting and Verification’ (MRV) systems.

Bringing together climate experts from a variety of countries, the Partnership seeks to foster mutual learning between peers, identify best practices, establish a shared mitigation-related knowledge base, and disseminate lessons learnt. This will contribute to the building of trust, capacity and expertise, allowing countries to find nationally appropriate solutions to address and combat climate change.

Within this context, technical workshops offer the opportunity for members of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV to immerse into particular topics of individual interest within the spectrum of mitigation and MRV. Offering technical workshops, the Partnership aims at contributing to an in-depth understanding of key aspects critical to the implementation of ambitious climate policies.  During the workshops, participants from developing countries may together work on strategies and roadmaps for mitigation policies and measures of their individual countries.

The first technical workshop of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV took place in June 2012 for negotiators from member countries of the Partnership dealing with mitigation issues.It analysed the existing UNFCCC framework for MRV, identified necessary requirements and interest regarding MRV in developing countries, and supported  informed decision-making in the negotiations.

Wasafiri Consultant, Sampa Kalungu, was contracted by GIZ to facilitate the workshop, ensuring a participatory approach that promoted exchange of knowledge and experiences from participants. The workshop was a strong success, with participants leaving better able to harness their MRV in order to confidently represent developing countries at international climate change negotiations.

I recently returned from the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual Africa meeting in Cape Town. I attended to support a high-level meeting focussed on scaling-up public-private initiatives that will help smallholders become more commercially successful. The meeting was attended by Presidents and Ministers from governments across Africa; heads of international agencies such USAID, IFAD and the African Development Bank; business leaders from mullti-nationals such as Pepsico, Yara, Kraft and Swiss Re; and, unlikely as it may seem, me! How did I find myself the smallest fish in a pond full of very big ones? This happened through the convergence of some long-term personal and strategic goals.

A few years ago, I was asked by the UK’s Department for International Development to consider how the private sector could be engaged in support of agricultural development. I ended up recommending to DFID that they supported country-level facilitation of public-private partnerships to integrate smallholders in to commercially viable markets. However as part of a stretched team, and with an impending change of government, there was no political impetus and, regardless how welcome my suggestions were, they led to no consequential action.

However, developing my report for DFID gave me the excuse to knock on the door at WEF and establish some relationships. I maintained these, and in the meantime established myself in a key role coordinating the engagement of Development Partners for CAADP – a pan-African movement to boost agricultural production and thereby address poverty and hunger. This year CAADP agreed that it was a top priority to leverage the technical, financial and human resources of the private sector. At the same time, I was aware that, driven by their multinational membership, WEF had pioneered a couple of promising public-private partnerships in Tanzania and Mozambique, and was looking to scale-up their efforts. WEF’s limiting factor was finding countries where there was strong political leadership in place that would want to work on such initiatives. Earlier this year I was able to connect the effort by WEF and the effort by CAADP by introducing key people to each other.

The event at WEF Africa was the result of bringing together the public-sector-led CAADP efforts, and the private-sector-led WEF efforts. This was the right political moment and the result is remarkable. Top-level political commitment was secured from across sectors for a scaling up of initiatives across Africa. In the next year we expect to see new partnerships launched in 6 countries. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania provides a practical example of one of these. In this key farming region, businesses are establishing new hubs through which to work with small-scale farmers, providing inputs such as fertiliser or seeds, establishing storage facilities, processing commodities, and finding markets for products. The government is investing in infrastructure such as roads, rail and irrigation. Development Partners are providing catalytic finance and capacity development. By acting together everyone is establishing the confidence required to establish functioning markets. These initiatives translate a great deal of talk by policy-makers in to action. The involvement of the private sector will only last if they see results, and as such this creates a tangible sense of hustle and focus that is often absent from development processes.

I played an enabling role at the WEF event in Cape Town –  writing briefing notes for participants, helping facilitate a roundtable discussion with the Rwandan Minister of Agriculture, writing a follow-up report and participating in the working group that will take the outcomes forward. The achievement I am really proud of was to maintain a long-term strategic focus on the value of public-private partnership for agricultural development, building relationships in that space, and then, when the political moment was finally right, I was able to make some key connections so that others with much greater power and influence could multiply their impact by working together.