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Strengthening Agricultural Finance

The financing gap for small and medium agricultural enterprises (agri-SMEs) in Africa presents a substantial challenge, hindering their vital role in the continent's economy. These agri-SMEs often find themselves in a difficult position, too large for microfinance yet unable to secure the necessary capital for expansion. These agri-SMEs often find themselves in a difficult position—too large for microfinance yet unable to secure the necessary capital for expansion. According to the World Economic Forum, this financing gap is estimated at approximately $100 billion. Traditional financial institutions may deem them too risky due to their size or lack of credit history. This gap represents untapped potential that, if addressed, could lead to transformative changes in food systems and bolster food security across Africa.


To cope with this financial challenge and provide GREATer support for small and medium agricultural enterprises, a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders, including development finance institutions, African governments, and the private sector, is crucial. One of the effective strategy in this endeavor is the establishment of specialized financing facilities tailored specifically for agri-SMEs. These facilities ought to provide an array of financial instruments—loans, guarantees, and investments—crafted with favorable terms to encourage active involvement. This encompasses reduced interest rates and flexible repayment schedules tailored to align with agricultural cycles, facilitating more seamless cash flow management.


Nigeria has recognized this pressing need and has taken significant steps through the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). NIRSAL takes a holistic approach, addressing both the agricultural value chain and the agricultural financing value chain simultaneously. On one hand, it enhances the efficiency of the agricultural value chain, instilling confidence in banks to lend to the sector. On the other hand, NIRSAL actively encourages banks and financial institutions to participate by providing them with strong incentives and valuable technical assistance. For instance, one such incentive is the Risk-sharing Facility, amounting to USD 300 million, which mitigates banks' concerns about high risks by sharing losses on agricultural loans. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), this initiative is expected to result in a substantial increase in lending to the agricultural sector over a decade, with lending rising significantly from 1.4% to 7% of total bank lending.

We can draw inspiration from the successful approach to bridging the funding gap for agri-SMEs, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive approach that simultaneously addresses systemic challenges within the agricultural sector while improving access to finance. Establishing specialized financing facilities tailored to agri-SMEs and providing incentives to financial institutions can encourage nations to boost investments in their agricultural sectors. Achieving this goal requires a long-term vision and effective collaboration between the public and private sectors, all while maintaining rigorous monitoring and adapting to the unique contexts of local agriculture.


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