Author: Antonio Guerrero

BOOSTING SME AGRICULTURE INVESTMENT

By Antonio Guerrero

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with several non-profit organizations to launch the African Agricultural Capital Fund (AACF).

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New fund will stimulate agriculture sector

The fund aims to boost investments by small- and medium-sized enterprises in the region’s agricultural sector. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gatsby Charitable Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation have pledged $17 million in equity investments to support the fund, while USAID’s Development Credit Authority will guarantee 50% of an $8 million loan from J.P. Morgan’s Social Finance Unit. Uganda’s Pearl Capital Partners will manage the new fund. PCP plans to invest in 20 agriculture-related businesses throughout East Africa.

Following his election as Zambia’s new president in September, Michael Sata introduced a series of economic changes that includes a reversal of the $5.6 million sale of the 50-branch Zambian Finance Bank to South Africa’s FirstRand. The bank was put under government control last December amid charges of financial irregularities, after which it was put up for sale. FirstRand expected to use the acquisition as part of a regional expansion drive, particularly after abandoning its bid in June for Sterling Bank in Nigeria. Some analysts allege the reversal is part of the Sata administration’s anti-foreign-investment stance, but the government says the previous administration acted in haste to push the sale through ahead of the elections. Critics charge the move could benefit Rajan Mathani, a major Finance Bank shareholder and Sata campaign backer.

The Ethiopian government sold $408 million worth of bonds over the past six months to finance construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River. Construction of the hydroelectric dam began in April and is expected to turn Ethiopia, which has refused foreign financing for the project, into a regional electricity exporter when the complex is completed by mid-2017. A regional grid will be established by 2016 among nine countries that will trade energy resources. The new dam will have a generating capacity of 5.250 megawatts.