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  • USAID and Impact Investors Capitalize new Equity Fund for East African Agribusinesses (selected)

USAID and Impact Investors Capitalize new Equity Fund for East African Agribusinesses

Sep 28, 2011

Press Release

New York — Impact investors, together with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), today announced a first-of-its-kind effort to invest $25 million of commercial capital with the only private investment manager in sub-Saharan Africa focused exclusively on growing small and medium-sized enterprises in the agriculture sector. As East Africa struggles with skyrocketing food prices and the region’s worst drought in 60 years, this new fund, the African Agricultural Capital Fund (AACF), will deliver much needed growth capital to boost the productivity and profitability of Africa’s undercapitalized agriculture sector.

Over the next five years, Pearl Capital Partners (PCP), a specialized African agricultural investment fund manager based in Kampala, Uganda, will invest the AACF’s $25 million in at least 20 agriculture-related businesses in East Africa, infusing equity and expertise into a sector that has suffered from underinvestment, and paving the way for raising the productivity and incomes of at least a quarter of a million households. PCP’s model focuses on building the skills of local management teams rather than infusing management expertise from abroad, making it a sustainable approach to investing on the continent.

“Achieving food security in Africa requires public and private players working and investing together. This transaction is a testament to that kind of collaboration,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “Investors increasingly see the promise of Africa’s agriculture sector, but the transaction risks are often perceived to be too high. That’s why we’re leveraging our development dollars and using innovative tools like the Development Credit Authority to lower the investment hurdles for private partners that want to invest with us.”

“This transaction exemplifies an innovative approach to impact investing that we hope will be a model for the future,” said Peter Scher, the executive vice president and head of Corporate Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase & Co. “J.P. Morgan is thrilled to work with our private and public sector partners to make this landmark effort a reality.”

“A funding gap exists for small cap agricultural businesses across East Africa, between large-scale commercial banks and microfinance institutions,” said Tom Adlam, Managing Partner of PCP. “This new Fund will help to address this gap, providing long-term capital to entrepreneurs who are building businesses in the agriculture sector while delivering quality financial returns for investors.”

Under the new Fund’s impact investment philosophy, PCP will aim to have both a strong financial return and significant social impact. Successful agribusiness development creates positive financial returns for the Fund’s investors. At the same time, agribusinesses are vital sources of employment, secure markets and improved products for millions of smallholder farmers across East Africa. New investments will need to demonstrate that they benefit large numbers of farmers and have an environmentally benign footprint.

AACF is being capitalized by a unique consortium of impact investors in conjunction with USAID. In order to attract investors to East Africa’s fledgling but increasingly profitable agribusinesses, USAID’s Development Credit Authority is guaranteeing 50% of an $8 million commercial loan from J.P. Morgan’s Social Finance Unit to AACF. The fund is also supported by $17 million in equity investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. The fund will also have access to $1.5 million in USAID-funded business development services, primarily funded under President Obama’s flagship Feed the Future initiative, to improve investee companies’ operations, competitiveness, and access to markets.

The co-investors in this fund are all members of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) Investors’ Council, through which they collaborated to identify complementary social, environmental, and financial goals for this project. J.P. Morgan, and The Rockefeller Foundation, and USAID are anchor funders of the GIIN, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investments.

“The African Agricultural Capital Fund is a prime example of how government, civil society and the private sector can work together to provide innovative solutions to the pressing challenges facing the African continent,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support the AACF and the development of agribusinesses that support small-holder farmers, create jobs and contribute to food security in Africa.”

“The African Agricultural Capital Fund will catalyze the growth of small and medium agribusinesses in East Africa,” said Julie Sunderland, Director of Program Related Investments for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “These businesses work with smallholder farmers across the agricultural value-chain and are important for the sustainable development of the sector. We are optimistic that the success of AACF and the individual businesses within its portfolio will encourage additional capital investment in enterprises employing, purchasing from and providing inputs and services to smallholders.”

“The success of our original investment in PCP since 2005 demonstrated the viability of achieving both commercial returns and strong developmental impact in agriculture, by targeting companies that play strategic roles in markets,” said Lord David Sainsbury, the settlor of the Gatsby Foundation. “We are delighted that this has now attracted a wide range of public, private and foundation investors to scale up the concept and strengthen agriculture in the region.”

“This unique collaboration between diverse investors will result in increased capital to the sustainable African agricultural sector and a more rigorous focus on generating social and environmental benefits,” said Luther Ragin, Jr., CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network. “We hope that other impact investors are encouraged to seek out similar opportunities that enable parties to more effectively address some of the world’s most pressing problems through investment.”

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