Webinar // Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: Access to Finance and Investment

How to boost the agriculture sector in Africa

On April 27, The Global Policy Institute and Bay Atlantic University, in partnership with Bahcesehir University, CIFAL Istanbul and The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) held a webinar titled: Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: Access to Finance and Investment

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Event Summary

Development finance is an increasingly broad landscape with a myriad of players including equity investors, grant makers, commercial banks, government banks, microfinance institutions, bilateral donors, and multilateral development banks. Its goals are equally diverse including: job creation, poverty relief, gender equality, and climate change.  While improved access to finance and investment is not a panacea, it is demonstrably one of the key constraints to starting and scaling any business, and especially agribusinesses in Africa. Agriculture has long been referred to as Africa’s greatest strength, with the potential to achieve food and nutritional security for the entire continent. However, despite contributing an average of 25% of the continent’s GDP in a rapidly growing market, it still remains under-serviced in many ways. While risk capital inflow in Africa has been on the rise, the agriculture sector has not kept pace.

Mezuo Nwuneli spoke about population growth, changing demographics, and the expectation that food market will outpace global averages and reach $1 trillion by 2030.  In terms of production constraints (e.g., quality seeds, fertilizer, mechanization, and distribution logistics), he emphasized the need for irrigation as much of African agriculture is rain-fed.

Jerry Parkes addressed the need for public and private sector stakeholders to collaborate in identifying shared goals, sector priorities, and collectively take a market systems approach across entire value chains.  Strategic alignment is a critical enabling factor in coordinating the efforts of government ministries, bilateral and multilateral development agencies, equity investors, and the organized private sector.

Ayodeji Balogun described his model to empower smallholder farms with inputs, technical assistance, and storage services that improve quality and yield as well as allow the farmers to sell when they chose.  AFEX’s warehouse receipts program also provides farmers the opportunity to use their stored harvests as collateral for commercial loans.

All the speakers emphasized how “blended capital” is now a major trend in financing modalities.  Herein, commercial banks, commercial and impact investors, grant making organizations, development finance institutions, and the donor community can come together to share the risk of new ventures, and each achieve their own objectives.

A common misconception that was debunked by all the speakers is that investors and financial institutions shy away from agribusiness due to the perception that investing in this sector is simply too risky.  In reality, finance and investment decisions are sector agnostic. They undergo the same due diligence process as any other investments in other companies. Investments are based on the financial and management performance of the firm.


Ayodeji “Deji” Balogun 

Ayodeji Balogun is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AFEX where he is leading a team of experts leveraging technology, innovative finance, and inclusive agriculture to connect agri-SMEs and smallholder farmers to commodity and financial markets. He holds an MBA from Lagos Business School; Global CEO – Africa from IESE Business School; and a certificate in Creative Leadership from the THNK School of Creative Leadership. Ayodeji has almost twenty years’ experience trading across West Africa as well as in building and scaling businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa. He serves on several capital market boards and works with several institutions on food security and financing agriculture.”

Mezou Nwuneli

Mezuo Nwuneli, the Managing Partner of Sahel Capital, has had a 25-year career across private equity, investment banking, and corporate finance. Mezuo has worked extensively within the agribusiness sector in West Africa and across a broad range of crop value chains since 2010.

Mezuo started his career with the corporate finance team of the Sabre Group in Dallas in 1995, and then worked in J.P. Morgan’s mergers and acquisitions group in New York. He was previously a Partner at AFIG Funds, a private equity firm covering West and Central Africa; and also worked at SecTrust (Afrinvest) and Ocean & Oil Holdings. He is the Co-Founder/Chairman of AACE Foods, an ago-processing company; and is on the Board of Directors of a range of companies in West Africa. He co-founded Sahel Capital in 2010.  Mezuo holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and received a B.Sc. in Industrial Management, with a minor in Information Systems, from Carnegie Mellon University. He was selected as an Archbishop Tutu Fellow and is an Eisenhower Fellow.

Jerry Parkes 

Jerry Parkes is the CEO and co-founder of Injaro Investments Limited (Injaro), and the Managing Director of Injaro Investment Advisors Limited, an investment advisor licensed by the Ghana Securities & Exchange Commission. Jerry is passionate about achieving job-based economic growth in Africa through developing partnerships, businesses and people. Over the last decade, he co-founded Injaro with an Ivorian partner, advised entrepreneurs on business development and groomed several investment professionals who now serve in senior roles at leading investment firms across Africa. Under his leadership, Injaro has secured mandates to manage Injaro Agricultural Capital Holdings Limited (IACHL), a US$50m fund; and to serve as investment advisor to the Agribusiness Capital (ABC) Fund, a €200 million fund. Since inception in 2009, Injaro has made over US$35 million of investments in African SMEs which have benefitted over 3 million people. In 2015, Injaro was featured on the Impact Assets 50, a list of top impact investment fund managers globally. Additionally, five IACHL portfolio companies were featured in The London Stock Exchange report, Companies to Inspire Africa 2017 while the turnaround story of another portfolio company earned Injaro the “Portfolio Company of the Year” award at the 2018 Private Equity Awards in London. Prior to Injaro, Jerry was a Director at a UK-based fund manager and activist private equity investor. He also served a variety of clients in an advisory capacity at Accenture, Merrill Lynch, UBS and Technoserve. He holds an M.Eng. Electrical and Electronic Engineering with French from the University of Manchester and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He also serves on the Board of African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA).


Adam Saffer is the CEO of Gateway Development International, a boutique impact investment and consulting firm focused on frontier and emerging markets.  He is an international business and development professional with over 35 years’ experience managing private companies and donor funded programs in frontier and emerging markets. He has designed, managed, and evaluated scores of projects with the past decade being focused on agriculture.  He started his career in Africa with Schlumberger Limited and later moved into the economic development sector. He has deep experience in developing partnerships and strategic alliances, designing and delivering capacity building training and technical assistance, behavioral science and creating rural jobs, with a strong emphasis on the environment and women and youth empowerment. He is known for building, leading, and inspiring teams and turning around under-performing projects and companies in dynamic, political, and complex cross-cultural environments. Adam works closely with host country governments, trade associations, NGOs/CSOs, and private companies. He has an extensive global network and excellent analytical and communication skills. Adam holds a Mechanical Engineering degree (Cornell University) and an MBA (Harvard Business School). He serves on the Board of the Global Policy Institute in Washington, DC.

Welcoming remarks

Paolo von Schirach, President Global Policy Institute and Chair Political Science and International Relations, Bay Atlantic University