By Godwill Arthur-Mensah, GNA
Accra, April 17, GNA - The Board of Directors of the Agriculture Fast Track Fund (AFT) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) have approved US$23 million grants to support agribusiness Small-and-Medium- sized Enterprises (SMEs) in eight African countries.
The multi-donor Trust Fund is being supported by the governments of the United States of America, Denmark and Sweden through their development agencies-United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and Swedish International Development (Sida).
Each of the beneficiaries would receive between US$100,000 and US$1.5 million towards the preparation of agriculture infrastructure projects and financing or advisory services for agribusiness expansion purposes.
The projects are supposed to be implemented within six months and also finance upstream work of project design, including feasibility studies, business plans, product and process certification, market analysis, as well as aid them to conduct environmental and social impact assessment.
The beneficiary SMEs were drawn from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania to increase food production, gender empowerment and create jobs in Africa.
The AFT since its inception in 2013 has been administered by the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department of the AFDB and approved 36 grant projects, mostly private-sector sponsored agribusiness SMEs.
At the launch of the newly-approved grants, projects under the auspices of the AFT in Accra on Wednesday, Mr Yaro Baldeh, the Country Manager of the AfDB, in an address read on his behalf, said the Bank’s ambition to support agriculture transformation in Africa was pivotal towards eliminating extreme poverty by 2025.
He said the grants projects were at the heart of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy, intended to end hunger and malnutrition on the Continent, make Africa a net food exporter and propelling Africa to the pinnacle of export-oriented global value chain.
Therefore, it was prudent to harness the full potential of Africa’s agriculture and that the AFT was playing a unique and purposive role to support the development of a strong pipeline of “bankable” agriculture infrastructure projects, he said.
Out of the 17 projects, four would be implemented in Ghana while the remaining 13 would be rolled out in seven other eligible countries and those projects were competitively selected based on applications the AFT’s Technical Review Committee received from October to November 2018.
Dr Jonas Chianu, the Coordinator of the Agriculture Fast Track Fund, said a total of 1,022 entries were received by the AFT Technical Review Committee and after rigorous technical evaluation 17 projects were selected for support.
He said the funds would support SMEs in poultry farming, cultivation of seeds, irrigation farming and other interventions and expressed the conviction that the projects would positively impact on job creation, gender empowerment and improve agriculture infrastructure.
Mr Emmanuel Fordjour, the Head of the African Development Bank Unit at the Finance Ministry, said the support from AfDB to the SMEs was commendable and the Bank must be encouraged to do more since it would boost agriculture production and improve food security in Africa.
One of the grantees, Mr Gebriel Galatis, the Country Director for the Canadian Feed the Children, an Ethiopian NGO, said the support from the Bank would enable the Organisation to undertake irrigation farming to promote food security, especially in the southern part of Ethiopia, which was ravaged by protracted war.
It would also empower women and young girls to undertake agribusiness and process tomatoes locally for sustenance of the local economy.
Another grantee, Mr JohnCarl Dunyo Kwame, Product Innovation and Distribution Manager of the Farmline, a Ghanaian agriculture company, said the funding would empower them to construct more warehouses to preserve cocoa beans in the Upper West, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions.
As part of the launch, a workshop was organised for the grantees and to familiarise themselves with the overall AFT operations and provide information on the processes, procedures and tools required for effective and smooth implementation of the projects.