The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) limited – a spin-off of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – was today launched at an event held in Nairobi.
While making the announcement during the launch, AECF’s Board Chair, Lord Paul Boateng, said, “the launch of AECF Ltd. as a separate legal entity marks the next step in the growth of the Fund. We are redoubling our efforts to highlight agriculture, agribusiness and renewable energy in Africa’s development with an exciting new emphasis on youth, women and equitable growth in Africa’s rural heartland.”
The Africa-based AECF was launched at the World Economic Forum in 2007 and begun operations in 2008, when it launched its first competition. Since then, it has grown from a US$34 million fund to the current US$256 million Enterprise Challenge Fund that has supported 257 businesses in 23 countries and has reached over 10 million people across the continent. It funds businesses in a number of sectors, namely, agribusiness, rural financial services, communications systems, renewable energy and adaptation of innovative technologies to combat climate change.
In her congratulatory remarks at the event, the AGRA President, Dr. Agnes Kalibata said, “AGRA is pleased to have played a role in incubating the AECF over the last decade and will continue to partner closely with the Fund as it moves into this new era. Agriculture remains Africa’s surest path to prosperity and the AECF’s work in scaling up investments in agribusinesses and related sectors will be critical in realizing this potential.”
“The footprint of the AECF is visible in a number of sectors which have contributed to growth and transformation in the lives of rural communities in Africa,” said Dr. Paul Greener, Chief Executive Officer, the AECF, while explaining that AECF provides catalytic funding in the form of grants and/or zero interest loans to private sector businesses that have a positive impact on rural communities in Africa. “This impact is not only recognized within the continent but also globally by institutions like the London Stock Exchange Group,” added Dr. Greener.
Going forward, the AECF will build on its track record and will continue to create sustainable rural livelihoods through private sector led initiative that addresses market failure and promotes inclusive growth. In this next phase, the Fund seeks to increase its funding base from US$256 million to US$ 500 million within the next 3 to 5 years, paying special attention to gender issues and youth employment. In addition, it will endeavour to expand its operations to new geographies in Africa.
The AECF will be a source of innovation and at the forefront of unlocking the potential of rural Africa to increase its productivity and jobs for young people and women and bring relevant skills to the marketplace.