Nairobi, Kenya (26 March 2018)
How can we improve financing for seed companies in East Africa? This remains a relevant point of inquiry for the private sector and seed companies in supporting access to and production of quality and improved seed in the region. The East Africa Seed Network, a professional online collaborative and learning platform facilitated by Africa Lead, approached this question through its second webinar and live presentation, “Unlocking Financing for Seed Company Development” on 20 March 2018 at the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub in Nairobi, Kenya.
Moderated by Richard Jones, Chief of Party for Scaling Seed and Technologies Partnership (SSTP) in Africa being implemented by Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the discussion included a panel of experts representing impact funds, including Ashley Olson Onyango, Financial Inclusion Program Manager for Mastercard Foundation; Fiona Kyomugisha Lukwago, Portfolio Manager for Agribusiness for African Enterprise Challenge Fund; Robert Opini, Consultant for Harbor Point Investments Ltd; and Hedwig Siewersten, Head of Inclusive Finance for AGRA. Thirty-five participants from impact funds, seed companies in the region, implementing partners and USAID/Kenya and East Africa attended the presentation online and in-person, with one-third of participants representing private sector seed companies.
Fiona Kyomugisha, Portfolio Manager for Agribusiness Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), responds to participants during the Q&A session. Photo credit: Africa Lead / Victor Oloo
The objective of the webinar was to discuss financing needs for small and medium-sized seed enterprise companies, accessing non-grant finance, technical assistance support needed to address access limitations, and plans to address these limitations within the organizations represented. Dr. Jones led the discussion with a brief presentation on AGRA’s work capacity building for seed companies through investments and business development services such as the Seed Enterprise Management Institute (SEMIs) through the University of Nairobi. These services provide seed companies with skills in seed crop production, marketing, quality assurance, business management, and other essential skills needed to develop into successful seed companies.
However, seed companies still struggle to remain sustainable because of constraints in cross-border trading and seed policy harmonization. Additionally, companies supported by grants also face issues with working capital after funding ends. Fiona Kyomugisha, Portfolio Manager for Agribusiness Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), described that the success of seed companies funded by her organization is dependent on the marketability of the seed variety, the readiness of the market to accept a particular variety and the ability to form partnerships with other agro-input actors along the value chain. “It is important for seed companies to be able to pitch to non-seed actors and to show a financier from a non-seed industry why seed is important,” said Ashely Onyango, Financial Program Manager for Mastercard Foundation.
The presentations ended with leaving the floor open for attendees and investment fund experts to discuss opportunities for finance, technical trainings, and financial literacy for actors within the sector. Future East Africa Seed Network webinars will focus on building linkages between the public and private sector in regional seed trade and seed policy. The East Africa Seed Network has over 100 registered participants representing 15 regional institutions, 10 private sector companies, and six country-level institutions.