As part of the United Nations Food Summit 2021, Bettina Marta Prato, Senior Coordinator of SAFIN, chaired a discussion on how to catalyse finance for young food entrepreneurs. SAFIN, the Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network, is comprised of 48 institutions across agricultural finance, who share a commitment to accelerating access to finance for small and medium enterprises in agricultural value chains.
SAFIN focuses on agri-SME finance for a number of reasons. Small farms and SMEs are often the backbone of agri-food systems in emerging economies, across processing, services, and distribution. SAFIN experts estimate there is a 170 billion dollar gap in access to finance by small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-East Asia and Latin America. The dialogue aimed to foster a shared understanding about the importance of ‘enabling financial ecosystems’ for young entrepreneurs, with effective financial offerings, and raising awareness about existing initiatives for participants to connect with the support and tools that they can use to build new alliances, or strengthen their work in the domain.
Transforming food systems requires empowering millions of young entrepreneurs to use their creativity, energy, and dedication to develop new business models that deliver better access to food, nutrition, equitable livelihoods, environmental sustainability and resilience. Improving young agri- and food entrepreneurs’ access to finance, alongside knowledge and technology will be critical in achieving this. The discussion also covered information systems empowering agri-entrepreneurs to navigate the financial centre, de-risking the finances of investment capital for them, and most importantly enhancing coordination between different types of capitaland financial service providers.
A reason I have invested in food based companies such as JUST and Aloha, is because of their innovative approach to business and the food sector. Despite the stifling impact of the pandemic on innovation, organisations such as SAFIN are enabling collaboration and real progress. The Food Summit and SAFIN offered a strategic opportunity to advance game-changing actions to empower young entrepreneurs to transform the sector, and I will be excited to see the work that emerges.